IT WASN’T a classic, but Charlie MacDonald’s first half strike was enough for Dons to pick up three points against Crewe, winning 1-0 at stadium:mk.
It should have been all over at half time, but Dons simply didn’t create anything. Charlie MacDonald turned in Dean Bowditch’s eighth minute drive across goal, but for all they looked comfortable against a lacklustre and seemingly uninterested Crewe side, Karl Robinson’s men barely made keeper Alan Martin work for his money.
The second half could have been an altogether different story as Ajay Leitch-Smith twice wasted one-on-ones with Dons stopper David Martin.
Regardless of the way the match played out though, it was three points on the board.
David Martin returned between the sticks after missing the midweek defeat to Sunderland due to illness. There were also recalls for Jay O’Shea and Charlie MacDonald, while Adam Chicksen kept his place at right back, keeping Jon Otsemobor on the bench. Loan signing Scott Allan completed his move from West Brom on Saturday morning and also made the bench.
The lack of goals, particularly in the first half, has been a concern for Dons of late, but they went about rectifying that straight from the off, and were ahead after just eight minutes. Bowdtich was given acres of space and plenty of time to set up a cross from the right flank, and how low, powerful ball across was tapped in by MacDonald, who beat Crewe’s offside trap to give Dons the lead.
And it was no more than they deserved. The visiting side barely touched the ball in the opening 20 minutes as Dons gave Alexandra the run-around. But for all their domination, Alan Martin in the Crewe net had his involvement limited to a handful of offside free-kicks, with too many promising moves faltering at the vital moment.
Not that it was causing them much concern though, as Crewe seemed to show little interest in the game, almost content to lose 1-0. Max Clayton sent a 15-yard header well wide after half an hour, and that was about as threatening as they’d looked.
Dons’ only other chance of the half came five minutes before the break when Bowditch had a low shot from outside the box tipped wide by Alan Martin, but nothing came of the resulting two corners.
By the half time whistle, Crewe began to play the ball around in the midfield, as if realising the game had already started, not that it made a shade of difference as David Martin kept his neon-green kit in pristine condition.
While the game should have been done and dusted well before the break, Dons almost allowed Crewe in the back door barely a minute into the second half, when Clayton was left unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, but he headed just over. And Dons’ generosity didn’t end there as they allowed Ajay Leitch-Smith free reign to stroll through the middle and dink the ball around David Martin. But fortunately for the home side, his effort came back off the foot of the post – a huge let off for Dons, who came out snoozing.
Luke Chadwick was having a rare off-day. Too many times he gave the ball away, mislaid passes and wrong decisions made creating chances for MacDonald impossible, and far too many promising moves broke down as a result. He was eventually replaced by newcomer Scott Allan with 20 minutes to go.
Leitch-Smith was given a golden opportunity to restore parity, and a chance to make amends for his earlier miss by Antony Kay, who gifted him the ball on the edge of the penalty area. But David Martin was lightning fast in closing the angle and managed to get enough on the shot to keep it out.
At the other end, the introduction of Daniel Powell at the expense of Jay O’Shea on the hour almost bore fruit immediately, when the winger beat Gregor Robertson and put across a beautiful ball that neither MacDonald nor the sliding Bowditch could connect with.
Scott Allan’s first involvement with the play came when he mugged Andy Bond on the left-hand touchline, allowing him to break away into the penalty area. But with MacDonald unmarked in the centre, the 20-year-old opted to go for goal himself, though his shot was comfortably dealt with by Alan Martin.
The home side’s inability to finish off the Railwaymen almost came back to bite them with six minutes remaining when Byron Moore’s break allowed Mathias Pogba to find space in the middle, but his shot, fired straight into the ground, bounced just wide of the upright.
A rare Dons chance saw Alan Martin flap at Lewington’s header from Bowditch’s corner and Kay’s knock down, but that was as close as Dons came.
But for all the performance will surely have frustrated Robinson and the 11,000 fans in stadium:mk, all that matters is the result.
Dons are up to second in the League 1 table.
Referee: James Adcock
MK Dons: David Martin, Lewington, Chicksen, Kay, Williams, Potter, Gleeson, Bowditch, Chadwick (Allan 70), O’Shea (Powell, 61), MacDonald (Lowe, 82)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Doumbe, Smith
Crewe Alexandra: Alan Martin, Tootle (Turton, 78), Davis, Ellis, Clayton (Colclough 68) Murphy, Leitch-Smith (Pogba, 62), Moore, Mellor, Robertson, Bond
Subs not used: Garrett, Guthrie, Ray, Daniels