MK Dons 2 Colchester United 1

COLCHESTER United's 100% record was ended in Milton Keynes this afternoon, as the unbeaten MK Dons held on for a narrow victory.

Carl Marston

MK Dons 2 Colchester United 1

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's 100% record was ended in Milton Keynes this afternoon, as the unbeaten MK Dons held on for a narrow victory.

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The U's had won their first three league games, and were bidding for an historic fourth on the bounce - the first time they would have achieved that feat as a Football League club.

But two goals inside the first hour gave themselves too much to do, despite a third goal of the season for Scott Vernon.

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Ex-U's loanee Jermaine Easter broke the deadlock from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute, when skipper Pat Baldwin was adjudged to have shoved over Easter inside the box. The striker picked himself up to beat Ben Williams from the spot.

The U's could have conceded more goals in a poor first-half display, and although they stepped up their game after the interval, they still fell further behind through Mark Carrington's cool finish in the 58th minute.

Defenders Pat Baldwin and Magnus Okuonghae both blundered, allowing Carrington to run through uncontested and round keeper Williams for the simplest of goals.

Vernon headed home David Fox's excellent cross in the 68th minute, to give the U's hope of salvaging a point, but this proved beyond them.

U's caretaker boss Joe Dunne named an unchanged side from the midweek 2-1 home win over Gillingham. Ex-Dons striker Clive Platt missed out on a return to his old club, because he was serving the third of a three-match suspension.

U's right-back Lee Beevers was given an early test by Dons left winger Jemal Johnson, who cut menacingly inside before scooping a shot over the bar from the edge of the box.

The visitors' first chance fell to Scott Vernon on seven minutes. He latched onto David Fox's slick pass and shepherded the ball away from a defender, only to slice his shot wide from 15 yards out.

Easter, who had a loan spell with the U's last season, carved out a great chance for the Dons in the 11th minute. However, team-mate Luke Chadwick could not convert his low cross from point-blank range.

But the Dons were ahead on 22 minutes, thanks to EASTER'S penalty.

Jason Puncheon set up the attack with a lively run inside the box. He scampered towards the near post and fizzed a cross along the six-yard box. Easter was knocked off the ball by Baldwin, and although the awaiting Johnson swept home the rebound at the far post, referee Keith Stroud had already blown his whistle for the foul by Baldwin.

It was Easter who tucked home the spot kick, even though keeper Williams guessed the right way by diving to his left.

Beevers had endured a torrid time against winger Johnson, and the ex-Lincoln defender also picked up a shoulder injury, and so was replaced by substitute Alan Maybury in the 28th minute.

The U's had been under the cosh, but they did threaten when Ashley Vincent earned a foul on the right edge of the Dons box on the half-hour mark. Keeper Willy Gueret did well away to claw away Simon Hackney's free-kick, before either Marc Tierney or Baldwin could connect with headers at the far post.

Vincent missed a great chance to equalise in the 36th minute. Kevin Lisbie beat Gueret to the ball just outside the penalty area, but the Dons keeper stood up well and made it difficult for the Ipswich loanee to shoot. Instead, he squared for David Fox, who in turn slid the ball on for Izzet, and it was finally Vincent who cracked in a shot that flew wide with Gueret still out-of-position.

Two minutes later and Williams prevented the Dons from doubling their lead. Easter outsmarted Magnus Okuonghae and homed in on goal, only for the U's keeper to divert his shot off target with a splendid block.

Williams again performed heroics to prevent Okuonghae's bungled clearance from flying in for an own goal, just before half-time, and there was a good deal of pinball inside the box before an unmarked Easter hooked his shot wide.

Half-time: MK Dons 1 Colchester United 0

The U's bossed possession for the opening minutes of the second half, without creating a clear-cut chance, and ironically it was the home side who should have made the game safe in the 54th minute.

A United attack broke down and suddenly it was two-against-one, with Easter and Puncheon both charging forward with just Maybury in defence. Easter unselfishly set up Puncheon, but he miscued his shot horribly wide.

However, the Dons did make it 2-0 in the 58th minute, through CARRINGTON'S cool finish.

It was a case of dreadful defending from the U's. Baldwin and Okuonghae both failed to clear the ball and suddenly Carrington was clean through on goal. The central midfielder simply rounded the onrushing Williams and walked the ball into an empty net.

The impressive Gueret maintained the Dons two-goal cushion in the 64th minute. Lisbie picked out Vincent with an accurate cross, but the winger's shot was pushed away by the home keeper.

But Gueret was powerless to prevent Colchester from halving the deficit, thanks to VERNON'S clinical header on 68 minutes. The big man nodded home an exquisite cross from Fox.

That set up an interesting last quarter of the game, and Izzet wasted a great opportunity to grab the equaliser in the 85th minute. The midfielder volleyed over the top from a good position, following a neat passing move.


MK DONS: Gueret 8, Howell 7, McCracken 7, Woodards 7, Davis 7, Chadwick 6 (sub Doumbe, 69), Carrington 7, Gleeson 6, Johnson 7 (sub Ibehre, 69), PUNCHEON 8, Easter 7 (sub Baldock, 86). Unused subs: Searle, Partridge, Bridges, Chicksen.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Williams 8, Beevers 5 (sub Maybury, 28), Okuonghae 5, Baldwin 6, Tierney 7, Vincent 7, IZZET 8, Fox 7, Hackney 5 (sub Perkins, 63), Lisbie 7, Vernon 7 (sub Thomas, 79). Unused subs: Wordsworth, Malton, Lockwood, Cousins.

Referee: Mr Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 6

Attendance: 8,633

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