By Martin Atherton
MK DONS 1 – LINCOLN CITY 2
DON ON THE COUNTER!
Tom Hopper’s late header was enough to settle the two sides in a tight affair this afternoon with both sides benefitting from questionable officiating.
Though some will look to blame the man in the middle for their side’s shortcomings, the Dons were tactically schooled by their opponents who arrived at Stadium MK with a clear plan on how to nullify their counterparts and hit them on the break.
The home side started the game well by setting up camp in the Imps’ half; both Houghton and Kasumu dictated the tempo of the game whilst Brittain committed himself further forward. Mason then saw the first real chance just a few minutes in, failing to convert from two yards after some good work from Poole down the right-hand side.
But despite the Dons’ strong opening they then almost immediately fell behind, Cargill putting in a superb tackle to deny Tom Hopper who was in on goal – referee Brett Huxtable, however, having failed to keep up with play and forced to make a call from distance, deemed the MK man to have impeded the Imps striker and pointed to the spot. Jorge Grant stepped up, coolly slotting past Nicholls to give the away side the lead.
The rest of the first half was then played out with almost nothing else of note happening in what became ever more a tight and cagey encounter. Poole tracked back excellently at one end to deny Grant a chance of doubling the Imps lead, whilst Morris’ weak effort went wayward at the other. The Dons became more and more frustrated, struggling to break down a resolute Lincoln back line.
The second period started with the home outfit back on the front foot and controlling the game, but it was the Imps who fashioned the first real opportunity with an unmarked Harry Anderson firing straight at Nicholls. Harvie then did well to win a free kick just on the edge of the box, but the effort on goal was put behind by former Don Conor McGrandles.
The Dons then finally found their equaliser, however, as Mason latched onto a loose ball in the box to fire past Palmer – albeit from a clear offside position. A well-deserved goal that instilled confidence back into the home side in the final third as Martin’s men then stepped it up a gear looking for a winner, Lewington nearly seeing an effort fly into the top corner were it not for an excellent Palmer save.
But despite the home side’s late domination it was Hopper who found the winning goal against the run of play, capitalising on Nicholls’ indecisiveness in his own six-yard box to head City into the lead. A sucker blow for the Dons who had until then been comfortably on top for some time.
Both Ben Gladwin and Scott Fraser entered the fray, the latter of which making his Dons bow, but neither were able to make a real impact as their side limped to a first league defeat. Mason so nearly levelled things up again in the dying embers of the game, but the Plymothian put his shot directly at Palmer despite having the whole goal to aim at.
MK Dons fans will rightfully be left concerned about where goals will come from this season after that performance. Though they dominated much of the game with 68% possession and mustered a handful of good chances in the process, both Mason and Morris were wasteful in their attempts on goal and failed to trouble the Imps defence, the former only finding the net thanks to a questionable offside call.
Much work is still to be done in the transfer market for Russell Martin and his team in their search for a clinical striker, who next week travel up to newly promoted Crewe Alexandra in another tough League One test.