By Martin Atherton
MK Dons comfortably swept aside Rochdale 4-1 at Spotland in an excellent attacking performance, and they may even walk away somewhat disappointed that they had not scored more.
Will Grigg’s inclusion in the starting line-up was the major talking point going into the game, and the Dons’ 2014/15 top scorer had an excellent re-debut, hitting two assists as his side ran riot.
Youngsters Ethan Laird, Matt O’Riley, and Warren O’Hora all also shined, whilst Andrew Fisher pulled off a number of key saves to keep the game level in the first half.
It took almost no time for the Dons to get their noses in front, some superb work from Ethan Laird allowing re-debutant Grigg to tee up Matt O’Riley to send a stunning strike past the Dale ‘keeper from 25-yards. 0-1!
Despite their good start, though, the Dons looked somewhat shaky at the back and couldn’t settle into the game. Lewington gave the ball away cheaply on the edge of his area; Fisher, however, was on hand with an excellent save to keep his side in the lead.
But Martin’s men were eventually made to pay for their poor defending, former target Humphrys putting in an inch-perfect cross for Lund to fire into an empty net. 1-1.
Fisher then found himself in trouble, gifting the ball straight to Lund on the edge of the area – thankfully, though, the Dons’ keeper was able to redeem himself with an excellent save from the 12-goal Dale man.
The big talking point of the half came just before the break – Laird once again causing havoc down the right-hand side, fizzing an excellent cross in and seeing it converted supposedly via Jerome from a Zak Jules effort – only for a very late flag to go up calling the Dons striker offside.
The referee then called the half-time whistle, surrounded by furious Dons players and management. HT 1-1.
But the Dons didn’t let that decision get to them, and they completely took the game to their opponents in the second.
Once again, they were quick out of the blocks as Jerome saw his header smash against the crossbar from Riley’s corner – Jules, however, was on hand to neatly nod home the rebound! 1-2
Two then very quickly became three, Fraser picking up the ball some 40 yards from goal, taking it all the way and then sending a strike past the helpless Dale ‘keeper. 1-3!!
And the Dons really weren’t stopping there as they just as quickly found a fourth, Grigg finding space in the box before squaring excellently for his strike partner Jerome to tap home. Stunning stuff from Russ Martin’s men, and two assists on his second debut for Grigg. 1-4!!!
It all then became a bit too much for Dale and tempers rose Lund seeing himself into the book for an awful tackle on Fraser.
The rest of the game was comfortably played out, and Martin’s side may have been disappointed to have not extended their lead. Grigg missed an open goal, whilst Mason had penalty appeals waved away with minutes to go. FT 1-4!
I questioned Laird a bit at the weekend, but he was nothing short of superb tonight. As confident as ever, but almost every run he made came off and was simply too much for the Dale back line to handle at times. Defensively, he also put in a great shift when needed.
Grigg was exceptional as well, despite missing that open goal! Two assists, plenty of good linkup work, and a well-deserved round of applause from the whole staffing team upon his substitution.
But individual performances aside, that was arguably our best outing of the season. Dale are by no means a bad side, but we very comfortably took them apart with our attacking class. Onto Saturday!