MK Dons 3 Doncaster Rovers 0 - Blockade undone by second half triple blast

Rovers' Andy Butler clears the ball from Will Grigg. Photo: Steve Uttley
Rovers' Andy Butler clears the ball from Will Grigg. Photo: Steve Uttley

The Rovers roadblock in the way of MK Dons’ automatic promotion hopes was ruthlessly dismantled as they fell to three second half goals in Buckinghamshire.

Rovers defended superbly in the first half but were picked off after easing off the brakes after the break.

A ridiculously fortunate goal from Dean Bowditch broke the deadlock before Carl Baker made the game safe for the promotion chasers with a quick-fire brace.

It was a scoreline Rovers did not deserve after showing such defensive resolve.

Luke McCullough returned to the side after a knee injury. But it was an experimental role for the Northern Ireland international, sitting as the defensive midfielder in a 4-1-4-1.

McCullough’s role, particularly in the first half, was to track Dele Alli, fresh from the Tottenham loanee’s young player of the year prize at the Football League awards.

The first half went as expected given the circumstances with the Dons dominating possession, penning Rovers into their own half as they looked to close the gap on second placed Preston.

But for all their control , the hosts struggled to mount anything meaningful. Their early attempts were largely speculative through the likes of Alli, Darren Potter and Rob Hall. And after nice build-ups, the final ball would consistently let them down.

Rovers defended superbly, getting plenty of bodies around the box to deny the hosts the space they craved.

The Dons did have the ball in the net midway through the half only to see it ruled out. After Stephen Bywater superbly denied a rasping drive from Samir Carruthers, Dean Lewington pounced to turn home the rebound but was offside.

With Nathan Tyson ploughing a lone furrow up front, Rovers struggled to create. It was a thankless task for Tyson.

The Dons flooded bodies back and consistently had seven men behind the ball when Rovers were in possession.

Richie Wellens played a superb through ball to send Tyson scampering clear but he hesitated and failed to pick out a return pass.

And their only other real chance came ten minutes from the break when Andy Butler headed a Kyle Bennett free kick back inside and Tyson was just beaten to the ball by Antony Kay.

Alli did well to find space for a low strike but was denied by Bywater.

Rovers started the second half with a little more attacking intent. Harry Forrester and Dean Furman had speculative efforts saved before Kyle Bennett forced a brilliant stop from Martin after a high shot from 20 yards.

Alli fired a warning shot with a superb volley from 20 yards which flew mere inches over.

But after all the knocking, it was the most farcical of goals that opened the door for the Dons on 65 minutes. Mitchell Lund leapt to head away Jordan Spence’s cross but saw his clearance cannon off the head of Bowditch and loop over Bywater.

Paul Dickov threw on Jonson Clarke-Harris and Curtis Main in search of a way back but substitute Carl Baker danced into the area and twisted and turned into space before drilling into the roof of the net from a tight angle with 13 minutes to go.

And on 84 minutes, Baker made the points safe after drilling in off the far post.

MK Dons: Martin, Spence, McFadzean, Kay, Lewington, Potter, Alli, Hall (C Baker 56), L Baker (Bowditch 64), Carruthers (Powell 85), Grigg. Subs not used: Burns, Hodson, Green, Cole.

Rovers: Bywater, Lund, Butler, Jones, Evina, McCullough (Clarke-Harris 69), Bennett, Wellens, Furman, Forrester (Whitehouse 82), Tyson (Main 69). Subs not used: Marosi, Stevens, Wabara, Middleton.

Attendance: 8,159.