Dons squandered a whole host of chances on Tuesday night, but only needed one as they beat Charlton 1-0.
Dean Bowditch’s neat one-two with the excellent Samir Carruthers on the half hour was all that separated the sides at the final whistle, but it should have been a far greater margin of victory.
Bowditch rattled the frame of the goal in the second period, while Nicky Maynard and Simon Church both wasted excellent opportunities to put the game beyond reach of the hapless Addicks, who really offered little in resistance.
As others around them picked up points on the night, Dons remain 20th in the Championship, but now have a four-point cushion between themselves and the relegation zone.
Matthew Upson was the surprise inclusion on the MK Dons team sheet, replacing the suspended Kyle McFadzean. Upson’s fitness regime has been intensified in the build-up while McFadzean was hovering on four yellow cards - the fifth he picked up on Saturday against Hull. Nicky Maynard started up front, replacing former Charlton striker Simon Church and Samir Carruthers replaced Carl Baker, who spent Saturday night in hospital with a torn oesophagus. Baker was fit enough for the bench though.
With Dons failing to score in the previous three outings, and Charlton doing similar in their last four, the chances of a goal-fest were slim but it didn’t stop both sides going for it in the opening 20 minutes. Somewhat predictably, shots on goals were rare but David Martin needed to be on his toes to keep out a decent Jordan Cousins effort from 20 yards.
The option of Maynard up front for Dons meant their outlet was primarily set to playing him in behind the defence. But on the slick surface, the ball skipped through quickly and left the striker chasing more than with the ball at his feet.
Dons’ passing would ultimately pay off though as they took the lead on the half hour. Picking up the ball in the centre of the park, Dean Bowditch broke forward before offloading to the lively Samir Carruthers and continuing his run into the box. With one-touch, Carruthers gave the ball back to Bowditch, who beat Stephen Henderson with ease, rolling the ball into the corner of the net to give Dons the lead.
The gamble on Upson though lasted just 39 minutes. The defender went down away from the action and immediately signalled to the bench he couldn’t continue. He was given a standing ovation as he left the field, and Lee Hodson was introduced in his place moving Jordan Spence in-field to the centre.
With confidence in front of goal proving an issue, Maynard would have been kicking himself for missing a glorious opportunity at the beginning of the second half. Sent clean through on goal at last, he took a touch before firing low on goal, but Henderson was a match for it, diving to his left to keep it out.
There was little the keeper could have done to keep out Bowditch’s fierce strike five minutes later, but he could thank his crossbar from keeping his side in it. And the Charlton stopper had to be on his toes to keep out Carruthers’ dipping strike 10 minutes after the restart as Dons sought a decisive second early in the half.
But while Dons were growing in confidence going forwards, Charlton sent a stark reminder they were still in it as Tony Watt ghosted in behind Spence, then turning the defender and firing one in on goal. Fortunately, it was straight at Martin and Dons were let off.
And they had to be thankful for the aerial prowess of Hodson to head Johnnie Jackson’s header off the line as they toed the line between confident and dangerous in the latter stages.
The second goal was destined never to arrive though, with substitute Simon Church somehow failing to convert Hodson’s excellent ball across the face of goal, scooping it wide when scoring looked the easier option.
Clean through two minutes later, Church again fired wide as the fruitless search for a second continued into the eight minutes of stoppage time. Fortunately though, Bowditch’s strike was enough to earn them all three points at the final whistle.
Referee: Andy Davies
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Upson (Hodson 39), Kay, Spence, Poyet, Potter, Carruthers, Bowditch (Baker 72), Murphy, Maynard (Church 77)
Subs not used: Cropper, Powell, Hall, Gallagher
Charlton Athletic: Henderson, Solly, Diarra, Bauer, Fox, McAleny (Ahearne-Grant 46), Cousins (Makienok 60), Jackson, Gudmundsson, Watt, Ghoochannejhad (Lookman 65)
Subs not used: Pope, Sarr, Holmes-Dennis, Ba
Booked: Gudmundsson, Fox, Diarra, Ghoochannejhad, Jackson, Maynard