MK Dons returned to winning ways as they defeated play-off chasing Portsmouth 1-0 in a lively contest at stadium mk.
Scott Fraser put MK Dons in front with a penalty in the final minutes of the first half.
Portsmouth showed lots of huff and puff in a lively game but were unable to level before they were reduced to 10 men after Jack Whatmough was sent off.
The dismissal took the wind out of Portsmouth’s sails, and allowed MK Dons to bounce back from a midweek thumping by Lincoln City to taste a first victory in four games. The result also lifts the Dons into the top half, although they are 7 points off the play-offs with four to play.
While Northampton’s defeat at Peterborough the previous evening means MK Dons can no longer go down, Russell Martin was still looking for a reaction from his players after defeat to Lincoln in midweek made it three games without a win or goal.
To that end, Martin brought in midfield enforcer David Kasumu for his first start since returning from injury. With Cameron Jerome still injured, Will Grigg again lead the line.
Before kick-off, the teams paid tribute to the late Prince Philip, whose funeral is due to take place today. The game was moved forward to a 12:30 kick-off time to avoid a clash.
The early stages would see the match have a busy start without many chances, with both side’s attacking options keen to go forward at pace but lacking a final ball in the opening moments.
After Portsmouth had a few half-chances, MK Dons had a big chance. Matt O’Riley was found at the end of a typically flowing move, and saw a nice curling drive hit the post. Andrew Surman then had a quick follow up but put it over.
O’Riley then headed wide from inside the six yard box, and was nearly punished immediately. A fast break by Portsmouth ended with John Marquis trying an overhead kick, and it required a very good stop by Andy Fisher to keep out.
A lively game continued in the same vein as before. But it progressively became more physical, with lots of fouls and arguments with the referees occurring. In and amidst that, John Marquis wafted a drive wide from the centre-circle.
Will Grigg then seemed on for a tap-in only to be put off by a last gasp Callum Johnson tackle that the referee chose not to interpret as a penalty. Seconds after, Ronan Curtis hit the post, much to the irritation of Harry Darling after the Dons defender felt he’d been fouled in the build-up. Perhaps arguing too much that there should’ve been a decision go his team’s way in that sequence, Dean Lewington duly got a booking.
Curtis then saw a shot saved by Fisher before Portsmouth voiced their annoyance with the referee after a penalty appeal was rejected.
With the half coming to an end, MK Dons would see a Surman free-kick bounce wide. But they would then be given a penalty kick. A challenge by Charlie Daniels on Ethan Laird was judged inside the box, and the penalty was given to MK Dons.
Fraser duly did the honours, as the Scot beat Craig MacGillivray to keep up his 100% record from the spot and put MK Dons in front.
MK Dons could’ve moved 2-0 in front in first half added time. Grigg saw an initial strike blocked on the line from Laird’s cross, then managed to hold off MacGillivray and have another go only for a different Portsmouth defender to block.
Portsmouth could’ve made the most of that reprieve with an equaliser, but Marquis’ shot ballooned over via a deflection after he was well found with a cross from the Portsmouth right.
Fraser then very nearly made the perfect start to the second half. The goalscorer was found in the box by Grigg and his first time shot smacked the crossbar, all within 25 seconds of the restart.
The bar would then soon be hit at the other end. After a cross was touched behind for a corner with Curtis lurking for a tap-in, a Portsmouth corner found Tom Naylor, whose header hit the bar and was just cleared by MK Dons in a scramble.
A lively contest saw plenty of endeavour from both sides without the chances necessarily to match. The away side were able to take a lot of possession and have moments down their flanks, but weren’t able to translate that into opportunities for an equaliser.
Their best chance to do so came at a set-piece, as a free kick found Whatmough, who saw his header just clawed away by Fisher in the midst of a scramble.
A warning nearly came for Portsmouth when they gave the ball away on the edge of their own box but O’Riley couldn’t control and fashion an opportunity from it.
Portsmouth were still in the contest with 10 minutes to play, but their hopes of an equaliser took a major dent when they reduced to ten. A two footed lunge by Whatmough on MK Dons sub Charlie Brown nearly sparked a melee, but the referee was able to diffuse the situation and then dismiss the Portsmouth defender for his original tackle.
MK Dons nearly ended the contest straight away after that, as O’Riley placed an effort just wide after a solo run.
Five minutes of added time were given, but Portsmouth struggled to break through and gave away a few fouls, allowing MK Dons to see the job through and pick up the points.
MK Dons: Fisher – Lewington, Darling, Jules – Laird, O’Riley, Kasumu (Brown 66), Surman (Houghton 85), Sorinola – Fraser (McEachran 66) – Grigg
Subs: Nicholls, Sorensen, Mason, Bird
Goal: Fraser (pen 42)
Booked: Lewington, Jules
Portsmouth: MacGillivvray – Johnson, Whatmough, Raggett (Cannon 77), Daniels – Naylor, White (Byers 59) – Harness, Williams (Nicolaisen 59), Curtis – Marquis
Subs: Ward, Downing, Bolton, Cannon, Stanley
Sent Off: Whatmough (81)
Booked: Daniels, Byers