MK Dons ensured their names would be in the hat for the FA Cup second round with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Halifax Town on Saturday.
Izale McLeod bagged a brace - the first of which was a stunning strike on the turn - sandwiching Shaun Williams’ penalty. Lee Gregory netted a consolation goal with 13 minutes to go for the Shaymen. Brendan Galloway added a fourth in stoppage time.
Karl Robinson admitted earlier in the week that he was likely to name a strong side against Skrill Premier side Halifax Town, and he certainly did. Izale McLeod was handed a starting role, with Patrick Bamford, Daniel Powell and Jason Banton rotating in behind the front man.
The home side looked well in control in the early stages, but Bamford was guilty of snatching at chances in front of goal. The striker, who picked up League 1 Player of the Month for October on Friday, rushed his first shot inside the six yard box allowing for an easy Matt Glennon save. Then, he pulled his strike from the edge of the box just wide.
Halifax didn’t see much of the ball in the attacking third in the opening 20 minutes, though Ian McLoughlin needed to be alert when Ryan Toulson was slid through on goal. The keeper closed the angle well but the pair collided - Toulson coming off the worst and having to be replaced by Jon Worthington.
There was some nice stuff from Dons in the centre of the park - Bamford dropping deep to join Stephen Gleeson and Darren Potter in a game of keep-ball, but neither Jason Banton nor Daniel Powell were really involved down the flanks, and there was little penetration from the home side.
And it took a moment of magic from Izale McLeod to open the scoring six minutes before the interval. Receiving the ball on the right-hand edge of the box with his back to goal, McLeod spun and struck left footed, sending the ball into the opposite top corner.
It could have been 2-0 two minutes later when Gleeson’s free kick was laid off by Potter for Williams to shoot, but it was palmed wide by Glennon.
If it wasn’t going to be 2-0, the sides should have been level going in at the break. Lee Hodson, who had looked solid until this point, was mugged on half way by Dan Gardner and he broke clean through. With Gleeson and Hodson unable to catch him, he took aim and shot but his effort was well blocked by McLoughlin. Hodson redeemed himself by bravely blocking the follow-up effort, deflecting it out for a corner and ensuring Dons’ lead at half time.
It took just eight minutes for Dons to double their lead though, and it came via the penalty spot and Shaun Williams’ second in as many games. Powell’s driving run into the box was cut short by Marc Roberts, who up-ended the winger, leaving referee Darren Bond no choice but to award the spot kick, which Williams dispatched sending Glennon the wrong way.
The keeper was integral in preventing Gleeson from making it 2-0 just two minutes later, getting his fingertips to Gleeson’s sweetly struck volley, which dipped late and was dropping in.
The goal seemed to jolt Halifax into a flurry of action, and required Ian McLoughlin to be on his toes. Lee Gregory was through but struck straight at McLoughlin, before he tipped another effort just over the top following a series of Town corners. And when Dons were hit on the counter attack, Gardner missed an absolute sitter at the far post after Matty Pearson’s brilliant run from inside his own half put the ball on a plate for the striker.
Dons killed the game off with 21 minutes remaining though. After giving the ball away to empty space a little too often for the home supporters, McLeod redeemed himself by adding his second, but all the hard work was done by half time substitute George Baldock. Skinning Scott McManus brilliantly on the edge of the box, his left footed strike was only palmed away by Glennon, leaving McLeod with an easy finish to double up and wrap up the tie at 3-0. He was given a standing ovation when he left the pitch a minute later, replaced by Giorgio Rasulo.
But Halifax got their moment with 13 minutes to go, as Gregory pulled off the shoulder of Hodson, and his acute shot just beat McLoughlin, rolling the length of the goal line before breaking it at the far post to pull one back.
There was no chance of a fight back though, as Dons shut up shop for the remainder of the game. Rasulo and Baldock both had fierce strikes go over the top, while Halifax tried to pile forward but it was too little too late as Brendan Galloway coolly rounded Glennon in stoppage time to make it 4-1 and the most popular goal of the afternoon.
Dons await their fate in the second round.
Referee: Darren Bond
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Lewington, Hodson, Williams, Spence, Potter, Gleeson (Galloway 70), Powell, Banton (Baldock 46), Bamford, McLeod (Rasulo 70)
Subs not used: Burns, Otsemobor, Flanagan, Smith
FC Halifax Town: Glennon, Toulson (Worthington 26), McManus, Pearson, Lowe, Gardner (Love 73), Gregory, Roberts, Marshall, Maynard (Wilson 67), Ainge
Subs not used: Senior, McReady, Holsgrove, Johnson