MK Dons humbled League 1 leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 to breathe new life into their ailing season.
Patrick Bamford’s first goal in three matches fired Dons ahead in a frantic first half, before Ben Reeves’ scored a beauty five minutes into the second as Dons recorded their first win on the road since the end of August.
Dale Jennings was able to return to the starting line-up after missing out on last week’s FA Cup second round game with Dover Athletic as a result of his loan terms. Antony Kay also made his highly anticipated return from injury, appearing on the substitutes bench.
The game started at a frantic pace, both sides eager to get into their stride early on. Much of Dons’ early intent seemed to come down their right flank, with Lee Hodson overlapping with Samir Carruthers. And the pair combined to capitalise on defender Scott Golbourne’s fifth minute slip, allowing Patrick Bamford in behind. But with no support in the box, he had to take it on himself, and the acute angle played to keeper Carl Ikeme’s advantage, and he easily scooped up Bamford’s shot.
At the other end, Wolves showed why they are on top of the pile, attacking with ease and confidence, but James Henry’s strike was at a comfortable height for Martin to tip over the top. He did well too to keep put Kevin Doyle’s strike as the ball bobbled in the penalty area, getting low down to clutch on to it.
Dons weren’t showing any signs of nerves or a lack of confidence shooting towards the vocal South Bank, and came closest to opening the scoring on 21 minutes when Dean Lewington’s late break into the box was picked up by Shaun Williams as he delivered the free kick. Ikeme though was a match for it, stopping well at his near post.
But the keeper was left horribly exposed at the back as Dons took a surprise 31st minute lead. Carruthers, picking the ball up 30 yards out, waited patiently for space to open up in front of him, and he brilliantly slid Bamford in behind the static Wolves defence. Drawing out the keeper, he needed no second invite to roll it past Ikeme and into the net, giving Dons a 1-0 lead.
The goal certainly settled the visiting side’s nerves, but also seemed to take a lot of the sting out of Wolves’ effort. With the crowd growing quieter, Dons began to grow into the occasion and looked the side more likely to add to their tally before the break. Ben Reeves’ deflected shot dipped sharply after initially looking like it was sailing into the stand, bouncing off the roof of the net five minutes before the break.
Wolves threatened to have the final say though, but for a miraculous interception from Shaun Williams on the stroke of half time. Bakary Sako beat Gleeson to the ball and made it to the byline. With Leigh Griffiths appearing unmarked in the centre, the midfielder rolled the ball across the face of goal to him, but Williams appeared from nowhere to slide in and take the ball off his toe, ensuring the visiting side took their advantage in with them at the break.
And that advantage was doubled five minutes after the restart when Reeves, growing in stature with every game he plays in behind Bamford, bent a beauty into the top corner from 20 yards out as the Wolves defence were caught napping at a Dons throw.
It could have been even better for the visitors seven minutes later when Bamford managed to work himself some room, but Ikeme was a match for his strike.
If the first goal gave Dons a bit more freedom, then the second allowed them to click into the comfort zone seldom seen in the last few months. Briskly passing the ball about the park, the home crowd grew evermore restless as the visitors dictated the pace and tempo.
That strut though almost cost them as Carruthers, who looked much more at home on the left flank, snaked across the field looking for the foul, but instead lost possession, allowing Liam McAlinden in. His shot though rolled just past the upright.
Apart from a few pot shots, Wolves’ threat remained manageable from Dons’ perspective. McAlinden had a few attempts from range, but none of them really caused Martin much cause for concern. And with the home crowd silenced, Dons looked all the more comfortable.
The latter stages were played out with Wolves the more keen to see the final whistle than Dons, as the home side looked like they had run out of ideas.
The significance of the victory may not mean a lot in terms of positions in League 1 for Dons, who remain 12th, but to the players and staff who embraced at the final whistle, it could prove to be a turning point.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake
Wolves: Ikeme, Edwards, Stearman, Batth, Henry, Griffiths (McAlinden 46), Sako (Jacobs 46), McDonald (Cassidy 88), Ricketts, Goldourne, Doyle
Subs not used: Hennessey, Davis, Price, Ebanks-Landell
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Hodson, Williams, Spence, Potter, Gleeson, Reeves (Galloway 90), Carruthers (Smith 78), Jennings (Baldock 55), Bamford
Subs not used: Flanagan, McLoughlin, Banton, Kay
Booked: McDonald, Sako, Jennings