The demons of Tuesday’s defeat, which I (un)fortunately failed to write about, were swept aside by Russell Martin’s men as they earned an, in the end, Imple win and put a big dent in Danny Cowley’s Portsmouth’s play-off hopes.
It was a scrappy opening 12 minutes until good work from Ethan Laird on the right culminated in a clever exchange between Andrew Surman and Matt O’Riley. The former Fulham man, with a wand of a left foot, curled one from outside the area but could only find the far post with Craig MacGillivray well beaten.
Just four minutes later, O’Riley might have scored again with an arguably better chance after a pinpoint cross found his head in the Portsmouth penalty area. Moments later, John Marquis nearly scored an incredible overhead kick but Andrew Fisher saved well from Pompey’s top goalscorer.
The half-hour mark was filled with controversy and incident: Laird found himself in a brilliant position in the Portsmouth area and crossed low for numerous white shirts in the box but Grigg looked like he was felled. The visitors wasted no time in breaking with Ronan Curtis firing narrowly wide of Fisher’s goal and Dean Lewington was booked immediately after, seemingly for dissent after making his feelings known about the lack of penalty award for his team.
Laird was a constant menace throughout the first half and in the 40th minute, he won a penalty after drawing a foul from Charlie Daniels: the former Bournemouth man unable to live with the Manchester United loanee. Scott Fraser maintained his 100% penalty conversion record, sending MacGillivray the wrong way to give his side the lead.
How MK Dons did not score in first-half stoppage time, only Will Grigg will know. Laird was instrumental again as he crossed for the Northern Irishman to tap in but Portsmouth bodies came flying in to block. He had a second bite of the cherry but was denied again by an outfield Portsmouth player on the line.
Half-time: MK Dons 1-0 Portsmouth
The Dons almost made an absolute dream start to the second half with Grigg teeing up Fraser to smash the bar 23 seconds in. The Portsmouth players had not even touched the ball before that chance fell to the Scotsman.
Cowley’s side nearly scored themselves in the 48th minute and it was very much a motif of the Cowley brothers’ sides throughout the years. A simple corner routine almost got the away side back in the match with Tom Naylor striking the crossbar with a header from very close range.
The game slumped after that flurry at the start of the second half and nothing particularly noteworthy happened until the 80th minute in which Jack Whatmough put in an extremely dangerous challenge on substitute Charlie Brown. Fortunately, the youngster managed to avoid any serious contact so came away unscathed but the Portsmouth centre-back was rightly shown a straight red card after the two-footed tackle.
Brown was at the heart of the next highlight in the 84th minute as he nodded for O’Riley to advance towards the Cowshed and his effort went only slightly wide. He could have had a hat-trick this afternoon.
For once, Martin’s men were not made to pay for their missed chances as they end their goal drought and their winless run in one fell swoop.
Full-time: MK Dons 1-0 Portsmouth
Man of the match: Ethan Laird