REPORT: MK Dons 0 Stevenage 1
Akins fires Boro to win at the home of promotion rivals
MK Dons 0 Stevenage 1
Npower League 1
Lucas Akins’ fifth league goal of the season handed Stevenage all three points as Boro returned to winning ways at MK Dons.
The winger struck in the first half after a surging run and pass by skipper Mark Roberts, and although MK Dons had their chances to equalise they were thwarted by both the resoluteness of Roberts and, behind him, the emerging talent of Steve Arnold.
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The goalkeeper is proving to be a real find for Gary Smith, and is also proving to be much more than a back-up brought in to keep Chris Day on his toes.
Arnold, said Smith afterwards, has all of the qualities to be ‘a fantastic goalkeeper’ and since his introduction to the first XI at Notts County at the start of October it is easy to see why.
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Roberts was in outstanding form all afternoon. Whereas some players talk like they’re winners, he is one by nature. Outstanding in both halves of the pitch he is a captain that leads by example, not just by talk.
Roberts has been partnered by four separate team-mates at centre-back this season while Boro have also used two left-backs and two right-backs. The captain remains the one constant, a steady and stubborn defender who rarely puts a foot wrong.
His partner this afternoon was Bondz N’Gala, and in the early stages he made one mistake hitting a clearance straight at Scott Allan who was not able to take advantage, while another slip-up gifted Allan the ball once more, this time the midfielder firing straight at Arnold.
The Stevenage goalkeeper was then called upon to make a fine one-handed save to stop Luke Chadwick’s effort from nestling inside the top corner.
It was Arnold’s opposite number, David Martin, who was next called into action, though this was to retrieve the ball that had nestled into the far corner of his net.
The move that led to the goal began in the heart of the pitch with Roberts winning the ball in the centre circle. Rather than pass, he drove forwards as if to show those in front of him just what was required to find the opening goal.
Thinking about taking a shot he saw his path blocked so instead he picked out a neat pass to Akins who cut inside and fired goalwards. Roberts, rather than drift back into position, watched on from inside the box, ready to pounce should Martin save. He didn’t.
The lead was almost doubled a minute later, but this time Akins volleyed Luke Freeman’s effort at Martin who saved with his feet.
The hosts almost pulled a goal back just before the break but Arnold was in inspired form once more, producing a superb save from the head of Chadwick before Roberts, deflecting the ball towards goal, cleared off the line.
The second half saw fewer clear-cut opportunities for both sides, which in part was due to Stevenage holding on to the ball much better than they had done in recent games, whilst out of possession they pressed well and kept their shape, allowing MK Dons only the occasional sniff at goal.
The one big chance Karl Robinson’s men did have came with eight minutes to go when Allan once again tried his luck from distance. His fierce strike, however, was tipped wide by Arnold who continued to frustrate the home side with a sublime display.
There was still time for Stevenage to carve out two more opportunities themselves, and when they broke down the centre through Akins and Marcus Haber, substitute Robbie Rogers, in support on the right, set up Akins whose effort was stopped on the line by a Dons defender.
Haber then sent a header at goal right at the death, again only to be thwarted by a body on the line.
Boro had, the previous week, come unstuck against a resurgent but not spectacular Colchester side. Against MK Dons, a better, stronger outfit, they bounced back in style.
MK Dons: Martin 7, Otsemobor 6 (Chicksen 62, 5), Lewington 7, Kouo-Doumbe 6, Williams 6, Gleeson 7, Potter 6, O’Shea 6 (MacDonald 62, 6), Allan 7, Chadwick 5, Smith 5 (Lowe 62, 5). Subs: McLoughlin, Kay.
Stevenage: Arnold 8, Gray 6, Charles 6, Roberts 8, N’Gala 6, Dunne 6, Tansey 7, Morais 6 (Rogers 82), Freeman 6 (Risser 72), Akins 7, Haber 6. Subs: Day, Ball, Iro, Lopez, Shroot.