Patience is the key for Dons as the race hots up

Dons celebrate Dean Bowditch's opener. Pic: Jane Russell
Dons celebrate Dean Bowditch's opener. Pic: Jane Russell

If you knock on the door long enough eventually someone will answer, and it’s an approach Dons used to their benefit on Tuesday night.

Patience was the name of the game against Doncaster Rovers at stadium:mk, but it took 66 minutes for them to opening the scoring in their subsequent 3-0 win.

With automatic promotion still finely in the balance, eyes were darting from the action at stadium:mk to any source of news from Meadow Lane as promotion rivals Preston took on Notts County.

Confidence was high after the cold, calculated 6-1 execution of Leyton Orient on Saturday, but a deep Doncaster defence was a source of frustration for the 8,000 Dons fans. For the players, it was a different story though.

There were no moments of panic in the first half - an ambitious Antony Kay strike from 35 yards in the second threatened a ‘shoot on sight’ attitude, but it was soon quashed.

Rob Hall, fresh from scoring a hat-trick against Orient, looked lively once more, but the brave Rovers back line was throwing everything and the kitchen sink in the way, leaving keeper Stephen Bywater relatively untested.

Bowditch's put his face on the line to score the opener. Pic: Jane Russell

Bowditch's put his face on the line to score the opener. Pic: Jane Russell

Unlike three days prior, Doncaster did threaten to show teeth at the other end though. The fast breaking Kyle Bennett and MK lad Harry Forrester caused full backs Jordan Spence and Dean Lewington a few problems in the first half, but the final ball desperately lacked as attacks fizzled out.

Still Dons plugged away. High on confidence, the cocky swagger of Lewis Baker, Dele Alli, Hall and Samir Carruthers played around like the cool kids on the playground, skipping neatly past the Doncaster midfield, passing among themselves with the added bonus of Will Grigg as an extra outlet.

But with all trying, and failing, the half time whistle allowed Dons an opportunity to reset rather than be read the riot act by manager Karl Robinson.

Kay’s overly ambitiois attempt aside, the second half continued in a similar vain.

It appeared as though it would take something special to beat Bywater though when Alli’s thunderous volley from the edge of the box has him scrambling across his line, only to see it skim just over.

In fact though, rather than something special, it took something bizarre.

Both just on as substitutes, Carl Baker whipped a ball deep towards Dean Bowditch at the far post, but he was beaten to it by Mitchell Lund. As luck would have it though, Bowditch’s face was perfectly placed to not just block the clearance, but to divert it in past a hapless Bywater.

Almost in unison, news broke of Notts County pulling one back against Preston, now 2-1 down with 18 minutes to go.

The atmosphere inside stadium:mk jumped several notches from patient to palpable.

Doncaster weren’t out of it yet though, and David Martin made two excellent stops, in particular to keep out Richie Wellens’ fierce drive through a crowd of bodies as the visitors were fitting to spoil the party.

Roars of ‘Come on County’ were more prominent around the ground though, especially when Carl Baker danced past Cedric Evina to make it 2-0.

His third, a near carbon copy of the second, made it comfortable for Dons, though it coincided with Jermaine Beckford’s second of the night too as Preston wrapped things up with a 3-1 win at Meadow Lane.

So it’s still all to play for in the remaining two games. Dons travel to play-off hopefuls Rochdale, while Preston host fourth place Swindon.

Dons just need to keep knocking.