Shaun Williams’ brilliant free-kick with 25 minutes remaining was enough for MK Dons to beat Walsall for just their second win in seven games.
Williams scored with the Dons’ only real effort on target in what was a low key affair at stadium:mk as Karl Robinson made two changes from last week’s defeat at Tranmere by bringing in David Martin and Lee Hodson for Ian McLoughlin and Jon Otsemobor.
After two defeats in a row, the pressure was on for the Dons to get back to winning ways against a Walsall side who started the day four places above them in League One.
Dons had the better chances in the opening stages of the game with Darren Potter finding Daniel Powell with a brilliant ball, but the winger was unable to get it under control. The best Walsall could muster up was a couple of long range efforts which ended up over Martin’s crossbar.
One moment of skill from James Baxendale almost helped put the away side ahead as his lovely chipped pass was taken in his stride by Sam Mantom and his effort was saved well by the legs of Martin.
But it was still the Dons who had control of the game and Ben Reeves should have done better when he failed to get much contact on a header after great play by Jason Banton.
Patrick Bamford was in the mood to try something special and attempted to lob Richard O’Donnell from distance, only for his effort to beat the goalkeeper and the crossbar too. Despite controlling possession and getting into better positions, the Dons failed to test O’Donnell in the first-half.
The Dons continued their domination in the second period, but still struggled to get a shot on target as Williams curled a free-kick inches wide. Just before that Luke Chadwick had freed Bamford, but he was muscled off the ball by Taylor as he was about to shoot. Andy Butler did well to clear Dean Lewington cross for a corner with substitute Izale McLeod lurking behind him for a free header.
After his earlier free-kick went wide, Williams wasn’t in the mood to miss another one as the Dons won a foul 25 yards out on the right hand side on 65 minutes. He spectacularly curled a left-footed effort into the bottom corner of the net to put the home side ahead for his sixth goal of the season.
The game seemed to fizzle out after the Dons took the lead, and the best chance after that didn’t come until the 86th minute as Williams was involved again at the other end, this time winning a goal kick off Craig Westcarr with a diving header.
Jordan Spence, on loan from West Ham, had to clear off the line from a Taylor corner as Walsall put some late pressure on the Dons goal.
Williams’ goal moves the Dons up to eighth in the table ahead of Walsall on goal difference and it leaves them two points from the play-off places.
Referee: Dean Whitestone
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin (McLoughlin 77); Hodson, Williams, Spence, Lewington; Reeves (Smith 75), Potter; Chadwick (McLeod 53), Powell, Banton; Bamford.
Subs not used: Otsemobor, Flanagan, Baldock, Carruthers.
Walsall (4-3-3): O’Donnell; Taylor, Butler, Chambers, Downing; Mantom, Featherstone (Sawyers 62), Chambers; Baxendale (Hewitt 87), Westcarr, Hemmings (Lalkovic 73).
Subs not used: Lewis, Purkiss, Benning, Gray.
Report by Liam Andrews