MK Dons Show Character to Come From Behind Against Ten Man Notts County

MK Dons extended their winning run to five games on Tuesday night as second-half goals from Chuks Aneke and Rhys Healey made amends for a disjointed opening period. Notts County had initially taken the lead through Lewis Allesandra’s deflected effort from range, but Aneke equalised from the penalty spot after Jamie Turley was dismissed from bringing down Healey, and the on-loan Cardiff striker added his third of the season with a cracking finish from an almost impossible angle.

MK Dons Show Character to Come From Behind

Disjointed First Half Sees Notts County Take Shock Lead

In the weekend win over Northampton, Paul Tisdale slightly altered the shape that had served the Dons well previously. He went for a 5-2-3 then and went for it once again on Tuesday after it’s success against the Cobblers. It was clear that Harry Kewell and his County side had done their homework, though, as they knew exactly how to defend against what the Dons were doing and exactly how to attack against a formation that left the Dons so exposed at the back.

The lack of midfielders meant that when County had the chance to counter-attack, they could move from the defensive third to the final third in the blink of an eye. The hosts lacked a killer instinct up front in the first half, meaning that County almost always had a chance to counter when the ball was lost up front, hence why they looked like the most threatening side in the opening exchanges.

It was strange, then, that Notts County’s goal came from their only real extended piece of possession in the final third. After knocking it around from side to side, Lewis Allesandra advanced forward to shoot and his effort went into the bottom corner after deflecting off the shin of George Williams. Lee Nicholls in the Dons goal had already committed himself to one side and could not get back the other way to keep it out – not that he had a chance.

It was hardly the scoreline that anyone had expected coming into the game. The Dons were on the back of four consecutive wins without conceding a goal while County were struggling at the wrong end of the table still, despite a slight upturn in form since Kewell’s arrival.

Half-Time Change Helps Make the Difference

Callum Brittain entered the fray at half-time, replacing Kieran Agard in what Paul Tisdale insisted was a tactical chance, rather than because there was an injury to Agard. Brittain’s entrance saw him deployed as a midfielder, a step further forward than his previous position this season of right-wingback. It also saw the Dons revert to the 5-3-2, with the back five doing their usual jobs, the two wider central midfielders assisting the wingbacks and providing some midfield solidity and the two up front tasked with scoring the goals.

This slight change made all the difference and the Dons looked far more threatening when they came forward. However, County were by no means out of the game. They spurned a glorious opportunity to double their lead through Allesandra, who will be kicking himself over his decision-making. Lee Nicholls tried to play a ball out from the back but instead played it straight to Allesandra, who was left one-on-one with the keeper. Instead of advancing and just knocking it around Nicholls, he tried to dink him from a standing position – it ended up being an easy catch for the 6’2″ keeper.

As if the miss wasn’t bad enough, things got worse for the visitors not long after. Rhys Healey was played through with just the keeper to beat and was bundled over in the box by Jamie Turley. It’s debatable whether the challenge should be deemed as a foul. It seemed soft and Turley would have had every right to claim that if it had occurred anywhere else on the pitch, it wouldn’t have been a foul. What he and the travelling fans will be more aggrieved about, though, is the decision from referee Michael Salisbury to give Turley his marching orders for it, despite the rule change this season of that type of foul only being worth a yellow card.

The decision stood, though, and after waiting what seemed like an age for Turley to leave the pitch, Chuks Aneke kept his cool and slotted home the penalty to keep up his excellent goalscoring form.

Healey Gets His Reward

Rhys Healey had been due a goal after his tireless performances in the last few games. The 23-year-old just never seems to stop running and he got his reward only nine minutes after Aneke’s equaliser. A pre-planned corner routine paid off when Jordan Houghton played it short to Dean Lewington. The captain then played an exquisite ball with the outside of his foot into Healey, who had also come short. Healey turned his marker and, from an almost impossible angle, rifled the ball past Ross Fitzsimons into the roof of the net. There was a momentary pause between the ball hitting the net and the cheers from the home fans as it took them a few seconds to register that Healey had even scored from that position, such was the quality of the goal.

The Dons had a number of opportunities to kill the game off against the ten men of Notts County, but all were wasted. Lawson D’ath, who entered as a substitute, was guilty of a number of poor touches, particularly an attempted backheel pass in the box when he had the goal at his mercy, and the Dons also had a goal ruled out when Aneke was judged to have pushed Matt Tootle into the ball to force an own goal.

The hosts managed to hold on, though, and the win takes them up to second in the table after both Exeter and Newport dropped points. Lincoln were also held to a draw at home for the second game in a row, meaning the Dons are now only three points off the summit of League Two.

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