Eight-goal thriller seals fourth place for MK Dons at Harrogate

Jpi
League Two: Harrogate Town 3-5 MK Dons

MK Dons secured fourth spot in style with a dramatic 5-3 win over Harrogate Town at the Envirovent Stadium on Saturday.

There were no goals until the 32nd minute when Dons fell behind to Abraham Odoh's strike, but bounced back with quick-fire goals from Alex Gilbey and Max Dean. The exellent George Thomson netted a wonderful free-kick in first-half stoppage time before sliding in Harrogate's third early in the second-half, but substitute Stephen Wearne levelled it up at 3-3 two minutes later.

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The hosts would hit the post five times in the game, but Emre Tezgel and Ellis Harrison would score late on to make sure of the result, and with it sealing fourth place in the division.

With the play-offs already secured, Mike Williamson opted to give minutes to players who were short of game time, making four changes to the side. Cameron Norman, MJ Williams, Ethan Robson and Emre Tezgel all came into the side, with Daniel Harvie, Lewis Bate, Jack Payne and Stephen Wearne all dropping to the bench for the game in north Yorkshire.

It was a close-knit affair in the opening stages of the game. Dons changes, particularly in the centre of the park, where Robson and Williams were unable to grasp control for the visitors. There were not many chances of note for either side - Michael Kelly palming an early Jack Muldoon effort wide, while James Belshaw kept out Max Dean at the other end from a tight angle - as the game looked to be coasting towards the break.

But the game burst into life 13 minutes before the interval, when four goals sailed on. The first came when Matty Daly beat Robson to the ball 30 yards out, taking aim on goal but after his strike came back off the woodwork, Abraham Odoh was on hand to bend home the rebound from the edge of the box.

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Dons looked on the back-foot after conceding, but were level five minutes before the break when Alex Gilbey exchanges passes with Dean to pick out the bottom corner for his 13th goal of the season.

The pair then reversed rolls three minutes later as Dons turned the game on it's head. Gilbey fired an effort into the mix, and after taking a deflection off a Harrogate foot, Dean pounced to convert from inside the six-yard box.

The striker's sixth goal in five matches looked to be enough to send Dons in ahead at the break, but a stunning free-kick in stoppage time from Harrogate skipper George Thomson sailed into the top corner to equalise at 2-2.

Dons' goal-scorers would be replaced at half-time by Stephen Wearne and Ellis Harrison, but the drama continued into the second-half too, with two quick-fire goals after the restart. The first saw Harrogate retake the lead on 50 minutes when Jack Tucker and Emre Tezgel conspired to lose possession to Abraham Odoh, who picked out Thomson who slid the ball home.

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Two minutes later though, Dons were level again in bizarre circumstances. Kelly's ball over the top landed at the feet of Wearne beyond the Harrogate defence, and with everyone stood still, the former Gateshead man almost apologetically rolled home the equaliser to make it 3-3.

The frame of the goal would go on to be one of Dons' best defenders in the second-half, and crucially the enemy of Harrogate skipper Thomson has he sought his hat-trick. He took aim from the edge of the box but saw Kelly tip it onto the woodwork, before Daly would strike it for a second time when he went one-on-one with Kelly but clipped the outside of the post.

Thomson would thump the bar with a brilliant strike again as he looked to make it 4-3, but Dons weren't without their own chances. Tezgel had two bites of the cherry blocked and Robson sent an effort just wide before they restored their lead with 10 minutes to go. After a botched goal-kick, Kemp caught the Harrogate defence on the hop, picking out Tezgel who cut back onto his left-foot to find the net from close range.

Three minutes later, Dons had it wrapped up when Harrison fired in Dean Lewington's pass as the hoem defence struggled to clear Kemp's corner, and though there was time for Thomson to hit the post once more for luck, it would be enough for Dons to round out their away season with another 5-3 win - just as they did on opening day at Wrexham.

Referee: David Webb

Attendance: 3,573 (573)

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Harrogate Town: Belshaw, Abu (Sims 83), Thomson, Cornelius, Odoh, O'Connor, McDonald, Muldoon (Folarin 75), Dooley (Sutton 62), Foulds

Subs not used: Oxley, Burrell, Sivi, March

MK Dons: Kelly, O'Hora (Kemp 59), Tucker, Lewington, Lofthouse, Norman, Williams, Robson, Gilbey (Wearne 46), Tezgel, Dean (Harrison 46)

Subs not used: Marschall, Payne, Harvie, Bate

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