SHAUN Williams netted two penalties as Dons cruised past Tranmere Rovers on Easter Monday, running out easy 3-0 winners at stadium:mk.
The first came after eight minutes when Daniel Powell was felled in the penalty area and Williams scored his third penalty in as many home games. Tranmere struggled to make inroads but were given a lifeline on half an hour when Gary MacKenzie fouled Robbie Weir, with referee Simon Hooper pointing to the spot again. But Jake Cassidy’s spot kick was saved by David Martin to keep the home side ahead. And Stephen Gleeson made Rovers pay late in the first half as he doubled Dons’ lead from inside the box.
Williams added his second and Dons’ third goal with 17 minutes to go to wrap up the result.
There was controversy towards the end though as Dons won an indirect free kick in the box and Darren Potter’s shot was nearly a full yard over the line, but the linesman didn’t award the goal.
Karl Robinson named the same back four that started in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Preston North End, but up front it was all change, with Dean Bowditch, Jabo Ibehre and Charlie MacDonald all returning to the starting line-up at the expense of Alan Smith, Jay O’Shea and Luke Chadwick who all dropped to the bench.
Dons wore all black for the game at stadium:mk as a mark of respect to the ‘Father of Loud’ Jim Marshall – the Bletchley-based creator of Marshall Amplification and long-term backer of the club – who died last Thursday.
And it didn’t take long for the crowd to make some noise in celebration as Powell was fouled in the penalty area after just eight minutes – Williams slotting home his third penalty in as many home games to put Dons a goal to the good.
But after the goal, the game fell flat. Neither side kept possession well in the middle of the park and chances proved hard to come by. For Tranmere, Ian Goodison had the ball in the net, but only after barging through David Martin and knocked the ball from the keeper’s hands, and Robbie Weir sliced a shot high and wide, while Ibehre came closest to doubling Dons’ lead with a header just wide of the upright.
The referee helped breathe life into the game on the half hour though by awarding another spot kick, this time at the other end as MacKenzie fouled Weir. But Jake Cassidy could not convert the penalty with Martin guessing the right way to keep the ball out. He could only parry though and Goodison looked certain to score in the open net, but incredibly blazed his effort well over the bar, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Powell nearly put Dons two up five minutes before the break when MacDonald’s neat touch put him through, but centre half Ash Taylor was on hand to clear Powell’s deft chip over Rovers keeper Owain fon Williams off the line.
Goodison turned villain again just 60 seconds later when he slipped as he went to clear, allowing Gleeson a free shot on goal in the six yard box which he easily slotted past fon Williams to put Dons two up at the break.
But as was the case at Deepdale on Saturday, Dons looked shy in front of goal, getting into some good areas but choosing to keep possession by passing backwards rather than chancing their arm with a shot.
It wasn’t all defensive minded though as Potter shot narrowly wide of the post and Ibehre was just inches away from tapping in Gleeson’s cross after a spectacular break away.
But there was no threat at the other end. Despite putting on powerful striker Enoch Showunmi, Tranmere struggled to make any impact on the Dons defence.
Williams made sure of the three points with another spot kick 17 minutes from time, this time coming when David Buchanan tripped MacDonald as he raced through to get on the end of Gleeson’s cross.
And it should have been 4-0 when Potter’s indirect free kick in the penalty area clearly crossed the line but was not awarded by the linesman. Fortunately it didn’t matter, though the standard of refereeing in League 1 must once again come under the spotlight, with officials missing key incidents to the detriment of Dons.
But despite that, Dons were comfortably the better side throughout and were worthy of their win, further cementing themselves in fifth position and edging ever closer to play-off certainty.
What the result did show though was the difference taking chances can make. After Saturday’s encouraging performance at Deepdale, a late equaliser broke Dons’ hearts.
But at stadium:mk, Dons left nothing to chance, and while it was two more goals from the penalty spot, Robinson will have no qualms about how or where the goals come from.
Williams’ second goal from the spot was also a landmark goal for the side as they ticked over into triple figures for the season across all competitions – a new club record. The previous came in the double winning 2007-2008 season in League 2, which also featured a lenghty cup run and Wembley final in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Referee: Simon Hooper
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Chicksen, Shaun Williams, MacKenzie (Flanagan, 79), Potter, Gleeson, Powell, Bowditch (O’Shea, 69), Ibehre (Chadwick, 81), MacDonald
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Smith, Chadwick
Tranmere Rovers: Owain fon Williams, Bakayogo, Goodison, Welsh, Buchanan, Akins, Weir (Robinson 61), Cassidy (Showunmi, 61), Holmes, Taylor, Wallace
Subs not used: Coughlin, Labadie, Brunt
Booked: MacKenzie, Holmes, Buchanan