REPORT: MK Dons 1-0 AFC Wimbledon: Bowditch is spot on in Dons victory
Robbie Neilson's impact was felt immediately at Stadium MK as his MK Dons side beat AFC Wimbledon 1-0 on Saturday.
Dean Bowditch's 62nd minute penalty was the only goal of the game, coming after Dean Lewington was hauled over by Paul Robinson, but the home side were very much in the ascendency throughout.
It was not only Robbie Neilson's first win in charge, but also Dons' first home league win since March 5.
Robbie Neilson's first league game in charge saw him make just one change to the side which started seven days prior in the FA Cup clash at Charlton, but it prompted a wholesale shake-up. With Joe Walsh out with an ankle injury, Dean Lewington shifted into the centre of the defence, and George B Williams took over at left back. In midfield, Ben Reeves and Samir Carruthers started on the flanks, with Dean Bowditch in behind Kieran Agard.
With the nature of the rivalry, it was suitably physical out on the pitch. Dean Lewington in particular looked keen for a battle as he kept tabs on the towering Tom Elliot.
The home side were very much in the driving seat in the early exchanges. Ben Reeves, playing on the left, was enjoying acres of space to operate in, but twice found himself in the penalty area to get shots away, while Ed Upson too had three decent sights of goal but couldn't find a way past James Shea.
The visitors didn't really get their feet under the table in the opening half, limited to a long-range strike from Jake Reeves which was high and wide of the mark on the half hour, and another from similar distance five minutes before the interval, which was routinely saved by David Martin.
Dons had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring barely five minutes into the second period, but Dean Bowditch somehow headed into the ground and wide of the mark after being picked out by George Baldock. Bowditch though would make up for it.
As the home side continued to be in the ascendency as they pressed for the opener, and the Dons skipper, booed throughout by the travelling fans, would play a key part. Taking the ball on himself and breaking forward, Dean Lewington exchanged a one-two with Bowditch but as he made it to the area, was hauled to the ground by Paul Robinson. Referee Geoff Eltringham considered it before pointing to the spot - and Bowditch sent Shea the wrong way to give Dons the lead after 62 minutes.
It would be a tense finale to the game. As the Londoners piled forwards, Dons' new-look back line was holding firm, led by Lewington who was barely beaten all afternoon.
But as the defence looked error free, at the other end, a mistake almost allowed Dons to double their advantage when Paul Robinson turned to play back to his keeper without spotting Agard lurking. But the Dons forward swiped at it, not really getting a clean connection and Shea was able to get a block to it.
After a nervous six minutes of stoppage time under pressure from the visitors, Dons saw out the game to win their first league match at home in nine months, Neilson's first in charge at Stadium MK and vitally, one over their rivals.
In terms of the table, it did little to change the state of play as Dons move up just one place to 18th, with the rest of the team yet to play.
Referee: Geoff EltringhamAttendance: 11,185 (1,967)
MK Dons: Martin, Baldock, Lewington, Downing, GB Williams, Upson, Potter, Carruthers (Aneke 65), Bowditch (Powell 74), B Reeves, Agard (Colclough 90)Subs not used: Nicholls (GK), GC Williams, Hendry, Tilney
AFC: Shea, Fuller, Robertson, Robinson, Meades, Bulman, J Reeves, Francomb, Parrett (Whelpdale 58), Elliot (Barnett 69), Poleon (Taylor 58)Subs not used: McDonnell, Kelly, Egan, Owens
Booked: Whelpdale, Robinson