Josh Murphy’s penalty miss made the final few minutes against QPR a nervous time for MK Dons admitted captain Dean Lewington afterwards.
With the match finely poised at 1-0, thanks to the skipper’s goal five minutes into the second half, Murphy’s poor spot kick with four minutes to go was easily saved by Rangers keeper Alex Smithies.
Having conceded late in three of their last five matches to cost them valuable points in the fight against relegation, Dons were left with a difficult task in the remainder of the game.
But substitute Rob Hall ultimately went on to win another penalty for Dons, which Ben Reeves duly converted in stoppage time to double their lead and secure all three points.
“In an ideal world, we’d all have loved to see (Murphy’s penalty) go in, but I could lie and say it didn’t matter,” admitted Lewington. “It made things a bit nervy, but in training we’ve been working on situations to stop the late goals.
“The second goal came from Ben Reeves pressing up to their goal line, and we worked on keeping the ball in their half late on too. The pressing from the front was really good today.”
Dons looked a completely different team at the start of the second half from the one which disappeared down the tunnel at the end of the first. Suddenly full on ambition and drive, Dons were in control throughout. But their slow start was actually part of the game plan.
Lewington explained: “We’ve found, especially at home, it has been hard to come from behind. We’ve been working on staying in the game in the first half, taking fewer risks at the back, being a tad more direct. It’s just a case of getting a foothold in the game.
“Then when it opens out, we have the likes of Josh Murphy, Rob Hall and Samir Carruthers who can really take advantage of that, but you have to earn it.
“Earlier in the season, we got too carried away with trying to play out and being a pretty team.”
While the victory over QPR didn’t move Dons any further away from the relegation zone, Dons moved within two points of Bristol City and Fulham, making a four-way fight against the drop more like a six-way battle with 11 games remaining.
“It’s a massive three points today and capped off a battling performance against a decent QPR team,” Lewington added.
“The more teams involved the better - we don’t want it being a two-team shoot out. The win keeps us above the line, but there will be plenty of ups and downs along the way. If we keep picking up points like this, we’ll be in the driving seat.
“With 11 games to go, we’re all in fight mode. There will be some strange results as teams start fighting for their lives. There are no easy games any more. Every game will be an absolute battle.”