It may only be the first game of the season, but MK Dons sit atop the Championship table after a comfortable 4-1 win against Rotherham.
Having scored 101 in League 1 last season, it took barely five minutes before Dons had their first Championship goal to celebrate and it came courtesy of Rob Hall’s tap in. Matt Derbyshire headed Rotherham level on 12 minutes, and they should have been leading but for an incredible miss from Danny Ward, and a super stop from David Martin.
Jordan Spence restored Dons’ lead though and Dean Bowditch made it 3-1 before half time. In a far calmer second period, substitute Carl Baker put the icing on the cake, sending Dons to the top of the pile.
There was a familiar feel to Karl Robinson’s side, with just one debutant coming in the form of striker Sam Gallagher up front. Samir Carruthers slotted in alongside Darren Potter to replace Tottenham-bound Dele Alli, while Rob Hall’s third spell at the club began on the right flank. Sergio Aguza, signed from Real Madrid, received his international clearance and was named on the bench.
With the travelling fans in full voice a full 45 minutes before kick off of their first Championship game, it didn’t take them long before they were celebrating their first goal in the division too.
With just four minutes played, Dean Bowditch burst down the left and got to the byline before cutting the ball back into the danger zone. Gallagher threw himself into the mix, and in the confusion, Hall was able to tap home through a crowd of bodies to put the visitors ahead.
But the lead would last barely eight minutes as Rotherham pulled level with their first attempt on goal. Matt Derbyshire, having three minutes earlier been introduced to the Dons bench courtesy of a shove from Jordan Spence, rose highest to meet Chris Maguire’s corner at near post, leaving David Martin with no chance.
And it certainly kicked the Millers into gear, who until that point had been second best. They really should have been ahead with 21 minutes on the clock, but for an astonishing miss from Danny Ward. Derbyshire questionably beat the offside trap, but forced a save from Martin, who could only tip his effort onto the bar. The rebound fell kindly for Ward, who should have tapped in but incredibly put it wide with the net gaping.
Martin had to be at his best a minute later when Derbyshire again found himself one-on-one, and almost rounded the keeper but for a big hand at the key moment putting the ball out for a corner.
Despite all their pressure though, it was Dons who would retake the lead on 28 minutes through an enormous slice of luck. Hall held the ball up well on the right, introducing Spence on the edge of the box. The defender shrugged aside Aidy White’s attentions and fired in a low ball across the face, though on target. Keeper Kelle Roos won’t be too keen to watch the replays back as he fumbled with the low ball, allowing it through his legs and into the net.
And they were 3-1 up seven minutes later as Dons once again pounced on a bit of good fortune. Rotherham captain Greg Halford looked to play back to his keeper, but inadvertently hit defender Tom Thorpe in the face. Ben Reeves was able to capitalise and break down the left, and picked out Bowditch at the near post for a simple tap in.
It should have been 4-1 five minutes before the break when Gallagher, who until that point had done fairly little to impact the game, was rolled through by Hall, but with just the keeper to beat, fired wide of the mark.
There was much less of the breathless, end-to-end football in the second period, but it suited Dons down to the ground. Seemingly happy to let Rotherham to the brunt of the running, Dons brought Gallagher into the game with a more concerted effort and string of balls towards the tall striker. But despite his solid control, a rusty looking Ben Reeves was unable to provide much in the way of support.
Gallagher’s hard work though finally paid off with his final touch of the match. Running hard down the right flank, he got the call from behind from substitute Carl Baker to lay the ball aside for him. Shrugging off the attentions Joe Newell, Baker spun away from his man before rattling home Dons’ fourth with 15 minutes to go, prompting a surge for the exit doors at the other end.
Referee: Nigel Miller
Attendance: 9,869 (849)
Rotherham: Roos; Halford, Collins, Thorpe, Newell; Maguire (Bowery 73), G Ward (Frecklington 45), Smallwood, White, (Green 45) D Ward, Derbyshire
Subs not used: Collin, Buxton, Ledesma, Richardson
MK Dons: Martin; Spence, McFadzean, Kay, Lewington (c); Potter, Carruthers; Hall (Powell 69), Reeves, Bowditch (Powell 69); Gallagher (Church 76)
Subs not used: Cropper, Hodson, Walsh, Aguza
Booked: Spence, McFadzean, Reeves, Smallwood