MK Dons shot up to third place in League One with a convincing 2-0 win over beleaguered Southampton in Nigel Adkins’ first game in charge of the Saints this week.
Adkins was looking for a dream start to his St Mary’s career, but ended up with a nightmare at the stadium:mk despite large spells of hugely entertaining football from both sides. In contrast, Karl Robinson’s fine start to his first season in management continued as Angelo Balanta and Peter Leven got the goals for the Dons who have now won all five of their five home games this season.
At times it looked as though, for all of their creative spells, the Dons may end the evening with a solitary point, only for Balanta to open the scoring after 72 minutes, firing the Dons in front from a tight angle after returning captain Dean Lewington’s cross.
After being suspended against Brighton, Lewington slotted straight back into the side, looking confident both in defence and in attack racing down the wings to support the stars. But while MK’s stars shone on the night, Southampton’s key men looked severely lacking in inspiration.
Jason Puncheon failed to reproduce one of his typical electrifying performances for Southampton that once made him a fan favourite in his Dons days, and was constantly closed down by the solid partnership of Dietmar Hamann and Peter Leven in midfield. The Saints’ leading goalscorer from last year Rickie Lambert looked surprisingly quiet too on the ground where he scored a hat trick last season.
Ironically, Southampton had been arguably the better side in the first half, with both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lambert coming close. Morgan Schneiderlin was probably their best hope of a goal, looking energised and only being denied by the fingertips of David Martin.
The Dons had their chances too, with Mathias Kouo-Doumbe firing a header straight over the bar and Chadwick creating several openings that could have been converted. Jabo Ibehre’s introduction from the bench after eleven minutes to replace the injured Sam Baldock made life difficult for the south coast men, and with the amount of chances that were going begging, Saints fans could be forgiven for thinking it was not going to be their night.
The second half saw very little being produced by Southampton, but it was still a nervous last ten minutes for the Dons as they looked to finish the opposition off. Their nerves were settled though as Leven capped a superb performance from midfield with a goal three minutes from time to put the game to bed, scoring on the rebound after his initial shot was saved by Kelvin Davis.
It ensured the Dons can now sit comfortably (for the moment) in the play off places, while the Saints go back to the south coast in the relegation zone and in desperate need of a result against Colchester on Saturday. A repeat performance, and scoreline, for the Dons against sixth placed Rochdale tomorrow would complete a perfect few days after the setback against Brighton.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.