MK Dons achieved a third straight league win for the first time since 2014/15 on Saturday as they succeeded on their first ever visit to Cambridge United. Chuks Aneke got the only goal of the game, his 50th career goal on his 150th career start, as well as his 50th start for MK Dons. There was no shortage of chances in the game despite the lack of goals. However, the majority went to the home side.
Chuks Aneke Goal Seals Third Straight Win For MK Dons
Subdued Opening and Peculiar Weather
Over 950 fans made the trip from Milton Keynes to the Abbey Stadium and before the game had even kicked off, they were making their presence known with their usual array of chants, made louder with the heavier-than-usual backing on the road. Once the game came around, everything quietened down in both ends of the ground and this seemed to transcend onto the pitch. The first 15-20 minutes were incredibly boring bar a magnificent volley from Rhys Healey, which was well saved by veteran David Forde.
Perhaps one reason for the subdued opening to the game was the rather odd weather. Despite it being close to 25 degrees outside, the wind was causing havoc for Cambridge, who were kicking into it in the first half. A number of goal kicks from Forde took violent twists as they moved through the air and it took the U’s a while to figure out the best way to approach this.
Using it to Their Advantage
After both teams spent the opening period of the game experimenting with how to avoid the wind, it’s ironic that the opening goal owed a large amount to it. The Dons cleared a Cambridge set-piece and Ryan Watson, close to his own corner flag, volleyed the ball high upfield, more in an attempt to just clear the danger than launch any kind of attack.
The wind took hold of the ball and took it further up the pitch than perhaps the defender was expecting, and Chuks Aneke used this to his advantage. He went up and won the aerial duel against the defender, bringing the ball down on his knee afterwards and driving forward. Within two touches, he was one-on-one with Forde and leaving the defender in his wake. He took his time to draw Forde out and cooly slotted the ball underneath him with his left foot and wheeled away in celebration.
Had the Dons played anything like they did in the first half, a half they eventually grew into after Aneke’s goal, they could have easily gone on to win this game by three or four goals. Whatever Joe Dunne said to his side at half-time, though, worked miracles, as his side were well on top in the second period and must be astounded as to how they didn’t score.
The first big chance came when the U’s broke on the counter-attack. The ball was fed out wide to David Amoo who charged into the box. His low ball went past Lee Nicholls and just needed a touch into the empty net. The ball struck the foot of the backtracking Jordan Houghton and had just enough flight on it to go over the bar and concede a corner, rather than going into the net.
Amoo went close again late on as he received the ball on the left this time. He danced his way into the box and let fly with a magnificent low effort that flashed past the post – at this point, you could sense it just wouldn’t be Cambridge’s day.
The Dons defence deserve massive credit for the way they defended in this game, and in recent games too, especially having earned three consecutive clean sheets. Jordan Moore-Taylor recently made it into Sky’s League Two Team of the Season So Far and it’s easy to see why – the free signing from Exeter City was at the heart of every challenge in this game and seems to have formed solid partnerships with Joe Walsh and Baily Cargill.
Biggest Win of the Season So Far
While there was only one goal in it, this is by far the most important three points the club have won so far in this campaign. Had this game taken place a month ago, there is no doubt that Cambridge would have nicked a goal late on and taken a share of the spoils – something that was common when the Dons went on a run of four 1-1 draws from five games. They have learnt from those errors, though, and seemed much more sure about what they were doing in the dying moments of this game.
Dealing with the wind and the unfamiliar surroundings made this win all the more impressive, and when you consider Cambridge’s league position (second bottom) this could quite easily have been a banana skin game for MK Dons. Instead, they got the job done. Not by playing free-flowing, attacking football, but by being professional and sticking to their tactics.