MK Dons produced a slick performance to record a deserved 1-0 win over Charlton. The Addicks were the first London side to welcome fans back into the ground since the national lockdown was lifted, but Ryan Fraser’s second half winner was enough to ensure the 2000 fans were sent home disappointed.
Charlton, enjoying a fine season and coming off the back of a 2-0 win at Ipswich, lined up in a midfield diamond with Connor Washinton fit to return to the starting lineup. MK’s results and league position were less impressive, though their performances had arguably merited more points than they have accrued so far.
Dons, as has become their custom, dominated possession from the off but the first 15 minutes passed without major incident. Visiting goalkeeper Andy Fisher was happy to act as an additional outfielder in build-up play when his side had the ball. This led to a couple of nervy moments following scuffed passes and clearances, but Charlton couldn’t punish him.
Nevertheless, MK Dons were in control and created the first chance after a quarter of an hour. Scott Fraser, in exceptional form so far this season, was released down the left. He burst into the box and took aim but his shot was beaten out by Ben Amos in the Charlton goal.
The home side were opened up again just minutes later. This time it was great work from Ben Gladwin as he slipped away from two Charlton challenges in midfield. He slipped Cameron Jerome in on goal but, under pressure from the recovering Darren Pratley, could only produce a weak effort straight at Amos. Jerome felt the attentions of Pratley were illegal, but the referee had no interest in pointing to the spot.
With those scares survived, the home side managed to gain a bit more of a foothold in the game. Though MK still looked slicker in possession, they weren’t able to get in behind the hosts’ defence again, whilst the Londoners managed to put together a few decent moves, though Amos did have to be alert once more to tip a goalbound corner kick onto the post.
After 38 minutes, Charlton constructed their best move of the match. After a Dons attack broke down, the Addicks broke quickly, switching the ball from left to right where the overlapping Adam Matthews delivered a pinpoint cross to Connor Washington at the back stick. Alas, Washington elected to take a touch rather than shoot first-time, and the ball was taken off his toe.
With the last action of the half, MK threatened again with another tidy move. Fraser against Amos was becoming a running battle, and once more the Charlton stopper thwarted the skilful number ten, keeping out the low shot with his foot after Fraser had dribbled into the box.
MK had been the better side, but had so far been unable to make their superiority count, a familiar problem for them this season.
Half time: Charlton 0-0 MK Dons
Charlton manager Lee Bowyer clearly wasn’t happy with what he had seen, as he dipped into his substitutes bench at the break, introducing the mercurial Marcus Maddison in place of Andrew Shinnie and switching to a 4-3-3 formation.
However, it didn’t stop the visitors from fashioning the first opening of the second half. Winger Matthew Sorinola was released down the left. He cut inside and rode the challenge of Adam Matthews, but his attempted curled effort brought a good save out of League One player of the month Amos.
Amos had to show his shot-stopping chops again soon after. Dons again built through midfield, and played the ball into Carlton Morris on the edge of the area, with his back to goal. He turned smoothly and found half a yard before curling towards the far corner, forcing the busy Amos into his best save yet.
The Charlton keeper looked less convincing from the resulting corner. He raced from his goal but got nowhere near the delivery. Fortunately for the home side, the attempted header landed on the roof of the net.
Charlton’s half time changes had failed to really alter the balance of play, although they had served to make the game more open. Bowyer made another attempt to influence the proceedings, this time with a double substitution. Jonny Williams and the in-form Chucks Aneke were brought on to beef up the home side’s attack. Though this gave them more attacking numbers, the changes totally ceded control of midfield to MK Dons.
With 15 minutes to go, A Charlton corner was flapped at by Fisher in goal. The ball fell to Madisson, who bought himself half a yard to drive in a dangerous low cross to the lurking Aneke, but his shot was blocked as it left his foot.
This brought a roar of encouragement from the 2000 home fans. But they were to be silenced immediately. MK broke through the wide open Charlton midfield, and slipped the ball through to Fraser. One-on-one with Amos, the Dons man finally got the better of the Charlton number one to send MK into a deserved lead.
Though they still had time to respond Charlton simply didn’t have the midfield presence to disrupt Dons, who were able to cool the tempo and see out large swathes of time with controlled possession.
Their hard won was nearly undone, however, as half way into four minutes of added time, Charlton came within a whisker of an ill deserved point. Great work from Williams released Maddison down the left. His cross towards Aneke was intercepted by Fisher, but the keeper could only parry to the arriving Darren Pratley. It was very much a case of the wrong man in the right place, as Pratley scooped the ball onto the bar with the goal gaping.
This was the best the Addicks could muster, the final chance of the game falling the way of the visitors. With Charlton pushing everyone forward, a long clearance from MK wasn’t dealt with by Ben Purrington, allowing substitute Stephen Walker in behind. He spotted Amos off his line, but the Middlesbrough loanee didn’t get enough height on his 30-yard chip to beat the keeper.
The miss would not prove costly however, as MK held on for the win.
Full time: Charlton 0-1 MK Dons
This was a richly deserved victory for the away side. They came into this match with impressive xG numbers, and a rather less impressive league postion. The match relected this, with the Buckinghamshire outfit fashioning numerous openings which were not maximised. They always looked the more likely to score, however, and Russell Martin’s progressive possesion style looks to be bearing fruit. Dons did a very good job of managing the game and seeing out the win, though they did survive a big late scare when Pratley hit the bar in stoppage time.
Man of the Match: Scott Fraser
Charlton were linked with Fraser last season, but the transfer embargo put paid to their efforts to sign him. Here, he showed the London side what they missed out on with a thoroughly classy midfield display. He progressed play with his passing, skipped round challenges, and repeatedly got into dangerous postions in the box. Despite losing several battles with Amos, the playmaker eventually won the war, capping another top-level performance and rubber-stamping his quality to Championship onlookers.