Dons secure play-off place with victory over Notts County

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DONS booked their place in the League One play-offs with a confident 2-1 victory against Notts County on Saturday.

Following a drab first half at stadium:mk, the second period was far more dramatic, as Sam Baldock and Angelo Balanta scored in quick succession to put Dons 2-0 up. Lee Hughes pulled one back for the relegation threatened visitors, but they never looked like troubling Dons as they finally ensured themselves a top six finish.

Karl Robinson, fresh from signing his new contract in the week, made two changes to the side which lost at Plymouth last Monday, with Baldock and Keanu Marsh-Brown both in to replace Jabo Ibehre and Angelo Balanta - both of whom dropped to the bench.

As per usual, Dons enjoyed the lion’s share of the early possession, but it was in fact the opposition who had the first real chance as Alan Judge took advantage of a high line and collected a long through ball in the box, but David Martin got down well to palm the shot away.

Dons looked comfortable without really creating any chances in the opening period. County, however, created nothing other than Judge’s early chance and seemed content to stifle Dons’ attempts rather than pushing forward to create their own.

Things could have been made worse for the visitors who were lucky not to be reduced to 10-men shortly before the break, but Sam Sodje’s horrendous two-footed challenge on Luke Chadwick was only adjudged to be worthy of a booking, though the injury would force the Dons man off at the break. Peter Leven took the free kick but narrowly missed Stuart Nelson’s left-hand upright.

Chadwick was replaced by Balanta and within two minutes he nearly put Dons into the lead. Collecting Marsh-Brown’s pass, he fired a right-footed shot narrowly wide, with Nelson at full stretch and struggling to get across.

But the deadlock was finally broken six minutes into the second half when Leven collected the ball on the half way line and clipped a beautiful diagonal pass into the penalty area towards Baldock. It looked as though Mike Edwards could head clear, but somehow he misjudged the flight of the ball and Baldock was on hand to hit it first time into the roof of the net.

The goal kick-started County, and they immediately tested Martin with two efforts on target, but both were expertly dealt with by the keeper as Dons’ defence was caught napping.

Dons though bounced back and doubled their lead when Leven played a short corner to Baldock, and his cross was bundled over the line by Balanta just before the hour mark.

County hauled themselves back into the game three minutes later, when a corner came across and Martin looked as though he was impeded on his way towards the ball, leaving Hughes to fire in from close range at the far post, giving the visitors a chance at 2-1. But it was a chance they couldn’t take.

The full time whistle meant a place in the play-offs was secured, and Dons remain fifth in the table with just a trip to Oldham come on Saturday.