Karl Robinson's reign as the youngest manager in the Football League got off to a flying start, as his MK Dons side fought like tigers to secure a commendable win at Walsall.
The Dons showed promising signs in pre-season, only narrowly losing out 3-2 to Birmingham last week after conceding in the 89th minute.
Whilst that was only a friendly, they demonstrated their attacking juices were flowing in time for the weekend’s opening fixture at the Banks's Stadium, and the Dons started well with shots from Jermain Easter and a Dean Lewington free-kick going just over.
Walsall managed to play their way back into the game, creating their own chances, while their industrious defence kept Easter and Sam Baldock at bay.
However, they were left static as Baldock lashed home three minutes before the interval after good work from Luke Chadwick in the box.
MK Dons have a poor record in opening day fixtures and they looked determined to change that, as Robinson looked to the experience of Dietmar Hamann to steady the ship. The ex-Liverpool man cut a confident figure in midfield, with his assured passes allowing those around him to surge forward in search of another goal.
The Dons headed down the tunnel at half time happy with their one goal lead, but it was to disappear almost immediately after the break as the Saddlers rallied to equalise - Julian Gray’s corner found the head of a soaring Manny Smith who headed Walsall level after 48 minutes.
Both sides continued to scrap for the three points, but in the end it was Danny Woodard’s powerful header for the Dons just before the hour mark that turned out to be the decisive goal.
It was the first goal of Woodard’s career and it earned a crucial 2-1 victory for Robinson’s men, who clung on despite late Walsall pressure. Desperate last-minute defending was the order of the day in order to secure maximum points, as on the opening day of the season, it's simply all about winning.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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