United left it late to beat the MK Dons this afternoon. An 88th minute goal from Kane Hemmings
decided a closely contested competition and kept United's excellent run going after they showed all their patience to beat the Dons.
As is so often the case, United needed Simon Eastwood
to make a big save, this time in the third minute as a diving run from Harvey Barnes fed Chuks Aneke, whose powerful low shot would have beaten most keepers. Not Eastwood though, plunging to his left to somehow keep the ball out and prevent the visitors taking an early lead. A crucial save and the keeper's best work of the afternoon. Stuart O’Keefe then fired over from a decent position after 16 minutes before Toni Martinez
forced the first opening for the U’s, powering past a defender but sending his low shot just wide of the far post after 20 minutes.
The on-loan West Ham forward then lit up an otherwise fairly forgettable first half with a 20-yard volley on the turn that forced David Martin into a great save at full stretch as the ball flew towards the bottom-left corner of the net. United had speculative efforts from Maguire and Hall go wide of the mark and had dominated the later stages of the first half but 0-0 was probably a fair score at half time.
United turned up the heat on a freezing afternoon after the break and could easily have been in front inside the first ten minutes of the second half. Maguire dragged a half-volley wide, a dipping Rob Hall
effort was tipped over by Martin, Nelson sent a free header wide and Martinez brought another save out of Martin on 55 as he once again beat his man inside the box.
It was hard fought but there was little rhythm to the game as the whistle interrupted the flow. Ledson being booked for not being injured got tempers flaring and fans scratching their heads. Joe Walsh had an effort deflected over the bar by the resolute home defence just after the hour but then a series of free kicks and niggly fouls slowed the game down and made 0-0 look increasingly inevitable. Hemmings had other ideas.
With two minutes to go Maguire's free kick was cleared back to Hall, who sent it straight back in. Hemmings, United's top scorer, comes alive in the box and has an amazing knack of being in the right place at the right time. His flicked header was placed to perfection, Martin was beaten, and United had the three points.
There was still time for Potter to trip Hall and Mr Kettle to call Potter back and send him off, Maguire seeing his penalty saved, but it didn't matter too much.
It can't always be about flowing football. Sometimes you need to grind out a win on a cold February afternoon through patience, resilience and sheer determination. This United team have those qualities in abundance and are on the march. See you Tuesday for Southend at home...
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
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