Rhys Healey scored his fifth goal in as many games to help MK Dons see off Bolton 1-0 at stadium mk.
The in-form striker decided a tight contest courtesy of a second half goal, as the Dons ground out victory against League One’s bottom side.
The result saw MK Dons make it five consecutive games unbeaten as they saw off the struggling visitors. With Wycombe beating Tranmere, it means the Dons now hold a 13 point advantage on the relegation zone.
Recent form had seen the Dons open up a gap on the relegation zone, and a record that stood at 4 games unbeaten prior to kick-off was tested against struggling Bolton, who arrived occupying the table’s bottom spot.
While Bolton did have some forward runs early on, the Dons had the first full chance. It fell to the in-form Healey, who saw an angled shot saved by Remi Matthews.
Regan Poole nearly caused problems at the wrong end, when his flick on a free-kick span goalbound, but it went straight to Lee Nicholls.
Defensive hesitation nearly caused problems for the Dons again when Daryl Murphy pressed George Williams all the way into his own penalty box, but the defender was bailed out by Regan Poole putting off Dennis Politic. The Dons swiftly broke from there, but Louis Thompson’s eventual shot was curled just wide.
The game largely played out at a low level of quality in the opening period, with neither side’s attackers really able to assert themselves and a lot of the game seeing both sides struggle to get into the opposition penalty area.
Towards the end of half, some half-chances did surface. For the Dons, Morris had one shot blocked by a covering defender and another intercepted in first half stoppage time by Matthews, while Bolton’s Ali Crawford had a long ranger stopped by Nicholls in-between the two.
After the low quality first half, the two sides were looking to try and attack more after the break. Most of the positive moments fell the way of the Dons, with Jordan Moore-Taylor just failing to find Healey with a header across goal at a free-kick before Gilbey fired wide at a corner.
Perhaps the best chance of the game opened up for Bolton just after the hour mark. Moments after Politic hit a strike that was closer to the corner flag than the net, a great chance opened for the veteran striker Daryl Murphy, but his effort went past the other side of the post.
It was a miss that would prove costly for the struggling visitors. The Dons won possession from a Bolton throw inside their half, and played it for Gilbey to lead a charge. The midfielder played in Healey, who was able to play a strike beyond Matthews and into the bottom corner for a 5th goal in as many games.
Bolton’s best chance for a quickfire leveller saw a covering defender intercept Jack Hobbs’ attempt at a corner.
The Dons’ attack was still struggling to break through after that, with the struggle best personified by the running battle between Morris and the officials. Having had a number of decisions go against him beforehand, the striker duly lost his temper at one too many, and earned a booking for dissent.
The agitation came moments after Matthews had nearly fumbled a Sam Nombe cross, although Bolton contained the danger.
Bolton’s best opportunity for an equaliser saw Politic come close, as he saw a strike saved by Nicholls at the back post.
Indeed, the best chances for a second goal in the game fell for the Dons. First, Gilbey saw a shot saved by Matthews after he’d been played in by Nombe.
Then, in the final minute of stoppage time, Healey was played through and rounded Matthews, only for the covering Aristote Nsiala to block and send it behind. But one was enough for the Dons to make it 5 unbeaten and deliver a 6th home win in seven outings.
MK Dons: Nicholls – Poole, Williams, Moore-Taylor, Lewington – Thompson (McGrandles 77), Houghton, Gilbey – Reeves (Nombe 67), Morris (Gladwin 88), Healey
Subs not used: Fisher, Walsh, Brittain, Kasumu
Goal: Healey (68)
Bolton: Matthews – Lowe, Nsiala, Hobbs, Fleming – Mellis (Graham 57), Hamilton (Dodoo 78), L. Murphy, Politic – Crawford (Emmanuel 73), D. Murphy
Subs not used: Alexander, Bunney, Delaney, O’Grady
Booked: Politic, Nsiala