Penalty hero Healey was not Dons' designated taker

Rhys Healey should not have taken the stoppage time penalty he won against Rochdale on Tuesday night, but Russell Martin did not mind too much.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 11:13 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 11:15 pm
Rhys Healey slots home his penalty kick

Healey looked out of sorts for much of the night at Stadium MK and had missed a sitter with six minutes to go when one-on-one with Rochdale keeper Joe Lynch when the game was balanced a 1-1.

But after being fouled in the second of six minutes added on, Healey dusted himself off to fire Dons 2-1 up and secure their second win of the year.

"He wasn't a designated taker, so for him to do that and for the lads to trust him shows huge respect," said Martin afterwards.

Dean Lewington celebrates with Healey

"I felt he was going to get another chance. He'd had three or four big chances. Fair play, he missed a massive chance, but went on to win a penalty, and fair play, he's stepped up to take it.

"He's still disappointed with his performance, he knows it wasn't his best game, but you cannot question his desire to win and his work out of possession was excellent. He wasn't as polished as before, but credit to him."

As the old cliche goes, it was a game of two halves for Dons. Out of sorts, ideas and luck in the first half, they fell behind to Eoghan O'Connell's 17th-minute header from a corner in one of the most routine goals you'll see.

Introducing Sam Nombe at the break saw Dons change their system, and it paid off immediately when Carlton Morris scored an equally routine header four minutes after the restart. Though they huffed and puffed, it looked as though a winner would not come, especially after Healey's miss.

But Martin said he could breathe a sigh of relief at full time.

He said: "I feel relieved more than anything. It was a difficult night. I was surprised by our performance in the first half. I spoke of our respect for Rochdale and the way their manager has them playing, and they were excellent. But from us, the standards of intensity and performance were nowhere near where we've been and not acceptable.

"The players knew that at half time, and it was about getting a reaction. And to swing momentum in a game is not easy, so I'm extremely proud of the players.

"We started the second half really well, we had numerous chances and should have scored three or four. Overall, we deserved it for the second-half performance."