DESPITE one win in four, Dons are still just four points from the automatic promotion spots in League One after Tuesday’s convincing 2-0 victory against Bournemouth.
Goals in the first and last five minutes of the game lifted Dons back into the top half of the table, while also maintaining their excellent league record at stadium:mk.
Boss Karl Robinson welcomed back defender Sean O’Hanlon to the starting line-up, while Sam Baldock and Luke Chadwick returned to the bench. Daniel Powell also made his first start since May.
And it didn’t take long for Dons to gain the upper hand in the game, taking the lead in the fifth minute. With almost the whole squad involved in the two-touch move, the energetic Powell pick-pocketed Cherries left-back Danny Hollands on the edge of the area and put in a low cross which fell kindly to Lewis Guy, who had the simple task of firing home past Shwan Jalal in the Bournemouth goal.
Powell was unlucky not to double the lead when Stephen Gleeson’s break fed Jabo Ibehre on the right flank, and his low cross was turned in by Powell, but was dubiously adjudged to be offside.
Skipper Dean Lewington and O’Hanlon both went close with efforts from corners as Dons went in search of a killer goal.
But the introduction of Steve Fletcher at Dean Court earlier this season swung the game in favour of Bournemouth, and his appearance after half an hour at stadium:mk had much the same effect as his side began to gain the upper hand.
The visitors laid siege to David Martin’s goal throughout the second half, and but for two world-class saves from the former Liverpool keeper, the Cherries would have travelled back to the south-coast with all three points.
Subs Baldock and Chadwick returned to Dons action for the closing stages, and both had chances to finish the game - and but for some do-or-die defending from Bournemouth’s backline they would have done just that.
But with five minutes to go Dons managed to clear a corner from danger and hit the visitors on the break. Baldock cleverly sent the ball wide for Michael McIndoe to break on the right wing, and with a return pass in his mind, the on-loan Coventry man played the ball in behind the lone Bournemouth defender, and found the rapidly breaking Mathias Doumbe who picked up the ball and neatly chipped the on-rushing Jalal to put the result beyond doubt.
After the game, Robinson joked: “I wish he’d have done that with his penalty against Stevenage! What a finish! I’ve asked for a bit more pace and direction and composure to our play - but I didn’t mean for my centre halves to overlap the forwards to dink one over the keeper with four minutes to play.”
“I thought first half we were really excellent - it was our best performance for a long time and if we perform like that on a regular basis, we’ll win more games than we lose.
“In the second Bournemouth went more route one, which makes it extremely difficult to play against, and we needed a different set of tools.
“Our second half was about desire though. The first half was about our class, but I wish we had taken our chances. We scored a very good goal that was disallowed, and missed a number of chances in the second half.”
The result sees Dons up to 12th in League One, four points from the automatic promotion spots, but also still just seven from the relegation zone.
But despite the tight division, Robinson ensured that his side are not thinking about falling into a relegation battle.
He said: “I never look down the table - I’m always optimistic with the players I have got.
“In the dressing room, we never spoke about relegation, it was just play-offs. We only want to go one place and my hunger for this club to be successful is burning week-in and week-out.”
With the cold weather now subsiding, Dons’ should also be able to get Saturday’s fixture with relegation battlers Bristol Rovers played, before travelling to basement boys Yeovil Town on Monday January 3, knowing that two victories will catapult them back up the league and into contention for promotion once again.