Mk Dons secured their place in the next round of the Carling Cup as two goals from the returning Jabo Ibehre overcame a spirited Dagenham & Redbridge side 2-1.
Dons manager Karl Robinson stressed the importance of a cup run last week, and it was to be a memorable return to stadium:mk for Ibehre, who spent the majority of last season on loan after failing to make an impact for former manager Paul Ince.
However, it looks set to be a different story for Ibehre under Robinson – sharp, hungry and energetic, Robinson must have been impressed.
Robinson’s men were made to work hard by the Daggers though, and life was made especially difficult early on when Peter Leven was judged to have fouled Jon Nurse on the edge of the box. Damien Mcrory took the resulting free-kick, and his 25-yard effort turned out to be a fantastic goal.
The Dons lacked pace and inspiration in the first half, but Robinson’s team-talk worked wonders. MK burst into life almost immediately after the interval, and thought they had gone ahead after 51 minutes when Jermaine Easter slotted home. Referee Gavin Ward thought otherwise, and chalked the goal off for a foul on Mark Arber.
Nevertheless, Easter was determined to leave his mark on the game, and just five minutes later brilliant work by the Welshman led to Ibehre’s equaliser. Ibehre sprinted through the heart of the Dagenham defence to place the ball in the corner of the net, much to the delight of the Dons fans behind the goal who have taken a particular shine to the striker.
The MK faithful were singing Ibehre’s name throughout the 90 minutes, and he repaid the faith shown in him by the fans and his manager by notching up another goal in the 79th. Luke Chadwick had impressed after coming on as a second half substitute, and it was to be the former Manchester United man who set up the winning goal, his optimistic cross into the box finding Ibehre.
It was a moment to forget for the unfortunate Scott Doe, whose weak touch in defence found Ibehre, who pounced, sharp as a knife against the men known as the Daggers.
The final whistle was greeted not only with a cheer, but with a sigh of relief from the Dons, who had to fight hard to ensure their name will be in the pot for Wednesday’s second round draw.
The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.