A LATE Tony Roberts howler gifted MK Dons only their third away win of the season at Dagenham and Redbridge.
Mark Carrington’s shot in the 93rd minute appeared to be routine for the Daggers stopper, but it squirmed through him as they continue with the mantle of the league’s worst home team, as Dons stayed in the play-off spots thanks to the 1-0 victory at the memorably named London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium.
For the first time this season, Karl Robinson was able to pick Jude Stirling. The popular defender has been ruled out all season with a groin injury was named on the bench alongside Sam Baldock, who was also returning from injury. Robinson’s faith in youth was also backed up with the selection of Adam Chicksen, who came in for the injured Gary MacKenzie.
In a breathless opening five minutes, neither side really took control of the game, but both were exploiting the wings had the ball in the opposition box, but to little avail.
The incentive of 99p tickets saw thousands pack the terraces, making for a great atmosphere, with pockets of Dons fans making their voices heard.
But it was the home side that had the first real chance of the game after 12 minutes. Marvin Morgan pressured Dean Lewington into a slip on the edge of Dons’ area allowing him in behind. With Gavin Tomlin waiting in the middle, Morgan crossed, but Mathias Doumbe slid in to clear behind for a corner.
The home side smothered their visitors, giving them no time on the ball, forcing them into quick passes and possession changed hands quickly and regularly.
Dagenham though should have taken the lead in the 27th minute. Morgan again this time forced Doumbe into a slip allowing him free entry into the penalty area but from 12 yards out, Martin made himself big as he charged in to close the angle, but Morgan’s shot was straight at him and cleared by Lewington.
Morgan was causing the Dons’ defence all manner of problems – this time breaking in behind Chicksen, but the tall forward’s cross was once again slid away to safety.
Daggers continued to lay siege to David Martin’s goal, and four minutes before the break, put together the best move of the game, which saw the home side string a number of passes together to quickly spread the play wide to Danny Green, but his tame shot was deflected wide for another home corner.
By comparison, Tony Roberts in the Dagenham net barely broke sweat in the first half as the sides went in 0-0 at the break.
But seconds into the second half, the keeper nearly was tested. Dan Powell beat left-back Femi Ilesanmi for pace down the right but rather than taking the shot on, he chose to square to Chadwick, but his pass was weak and cleared away.
The opening 10 minutes saw Dons enjoy a good period of pressure, trapping Daggers in their own half, but created little in the way of clear-cut chances.
Their first chance came in the 56th minute though, and had Roberts rooted to the spot. Chadwick laid the ball up to Ibehre, who quickly returned it to the winger, only for him to leave it for Leven to fire left footed, but his shot was just wide of the post.
Minutes later, the Scot felt his side should have had a penalty kick when his close range effort appeared to hit a hand, but referee Pawson indicated a corner ball.
The slow pitch made it hard for both teams to run with the ball, resorting to long, and often over hit, passes aimed at runners in behind.
Robinson rolled the dice with 25 minutes remaining, throwing on two strikers for two wingers – Guy and Powell replaced by Sam Baldock and Rowan Vine.
Dagenham have the worst home record in the division, taking just 10 points from a possible 36 but offered little in the second period, and anything remotely dangerous was tidied by the imperious Doumbe.
But just when it appeared the home side were getting on top, Danny Green went up for a header against Chadwick, but led with his arm and caught the Dons man in the face, giving the referee no choice but to send him off – a straight red card despite his earlier booking – leaving with 18 minutes to defend with 10 men.
The sending off lifted the crowd for both sides, but Dons really should have taken the lead with 12 minutes remaining. Flowing forward, first Chadwick’s effort was blocked, before Ibehre had two bites of the cherry, the second of which was deflected into the path of Vine, but it was too quick for the on-loan QPR man as it went out of play.
Substitute Sam Baldock hobbled ominously off the pitch and down the tunnel – the injury prone youngster immediately signalling to the bench he was unable to continue, and was followed by the club’s doctor.
Deep into stoppage time, Roberts was finally called upon to make a save, but made a complete hash of it, handing Dons all three points. Mark Carrington, who replaced Baldock, found space 30 yards out and fired a rasping shot which made it through the crowd and the diving Roberts appeared to have it covered, but it slipped out of his grasp and into the net, prompting the entire bench to empty in celebration.
The full time whistle signalled Dons third away win of the season, and kept them hot on the heels of their play-off rivals, as many of them slipped up on the day.
Robinson and his team will now look to Tuesday night’s game against Leyton Orient to continue their road to away-day recovery.
Referee: Chris Pawson Attendance: 4,446 (662 away)
Dagenham: Roberts, Doe, Arber (c), Green, Tomlin, Ogogo, Vincelot, Ilesanmi, Gain, Elito (Nurse, 70), Morgan
Subs not used: C Lewington, Antwi, NurseScannell, Savage, Currie, Bingham
MK Dons: Martin, Chicksen, Lewington (c), Doumbe, Chicksen, Gleeson, Leven, Powell (S Baldock, 66 (Carrington, 80)), Chadwick, Guy (Vine, 66), Ibehre
Subs not used: Searle, Stirling, O’Hanlon, G Baldock
Bookings: Woodards, Green, Ibehre
Sent off: Green