MK Dons battered a managerless Cod Army in the first half and rode out an underwhelming second half as a Joe Mason hat-trick saw his team defeat one of last season’s play-off semi-finalists, whilst their biggest rivals, AFC Wimbledon were hammered by the other unsuccessful semi-finalists of last campaign.
The Dons conceded early just three days before but it was their turn to strike first and strike early. It was a huge moment for Joe Mason: the striker grabbing his first since his period on the sidelines, with an instinctive finish following an excellent Ethan Laird cutback in the fourth minute.
It could have been 2-0 within 13 minutes. A Daniel Harvie cross was met by a Cameron Jerome knockdown and Lasse Sørensen had his effort saved by Joe Hilton before the Dons top goalscorer failed to sort his feet out for the rebound.
Goals were like London buses for Mason as he added a second in the 21st minute. His pressing dispossessed Paul Coutts in the Fleetwood defensive third before Scott Fraser took over. His effort was blocked but fell back to the resurgent Dons frontman who curled home from 20 yards.
The destination of the match ball was already decided in the 28th minute as Mason pounced on a shocking attempted backpass from Charlie Mulgrew to cooly finish past Hilton and complete a stunning hat-trick.
Half-time: MK Dons 3-0 Fleetwood Town
Unfortunately, Russell Martin’s men started the second half in sluggish fashion. Kyle Vassell found himself in acres in the inside-left channel but his attempt was well saved by Andrew Fisher before the rebound was somehow not put in by Callum Camps. Desperate defending on the line kept The Trawlermen from getting back into the game.
Sam Finley, who had replaced the Fleetwood captain: Coutts, at half-time, struck the bar with a cracking effort from outside the Dons penalty box as well, as Simon Wiles must have said some rousing words in the away dressing room.
Just before the final quarter-hour, there was a whirlwind couple of minutes as Vassell was played in by Paddy Madden but denied incredibly by Fisher. This same passage of play culminated with Fraser playing in Sørensen, whose shot was tipped round the post by Hilton.
The Dons did lose their clean sheet as Finley did manage to get on the scoresheet after coming so close earlier on in the half. It capped off a poor second half from the men in white.
Despite the complacency in the second period, it was still a fantastic result and way to bounce back for the Bletchley-based outfit. Ultimately, the sorry state of the Stadium MK pitch served to hamper Fleetwood Town more than it hampered the home side on the night.
Full-time: MK Dons 3-1 Fleetwood Town
Man of the match: Joe Mason