VOLLEY GOOD JOE IS DONS’ HERO...
KARL Robinson says his side’s ability to play through thick and thin was the decisive factor in MK Dons’ first victory of 2016 – and insisted he can’t take any of the credit for himself.
Joe Walsh scored his first goal for the Dons since his summer move from Crawley in what was an extremely tight affair to extend Reading’s winless run to three games under new boss Brian McDermott.
But Robinson, whose side were coming off the back of a 5-0 drubbing at home to Burnley on Tuesday, praised his players’ mentality for the way in which they responded to recent results.
“It’s not down to me at all, I’m just a very small cog in the development in this football club and it’s down to the players and the fans,” he said.
“We’ve got a mentality here in that we stick together through thick and thin and it’s about developing that here at the club.
“I think collectively as a group we looked strong. We didn’t make any errors and we went and nicked it at the end. The heart in the players is sensational, especially on the back of the 5-0 loss on Tuesday night. That wasn’t the same team that was beaten 5-0 here on Tuesday, we looked really confident out there.”
The visitors started the game brightly and began advancing in the final third through winger Garath McCleary, who had the pace and power to beat Dons captain Dean Lewington with ease on the right wing, but he couldn’t quite find the right final ball.
The home side responded well though, as Nicky Maynard outmuscled Anton Ferdinand to meet Rob Hall’s cross from the right with an acute header towards goal, but keeper Ali AlHabsi was equal to it.
McCleary was denied an opener for the Royals in the 20th minute as Oliver Norwood burst forward before floating in a deep cross into the Dons’ box, which keeper David Martin failed to deal with as it fell to the feet of McCleary whose effort on goal was superbly blocked by Lewington.
And Reading should have taken the lead five minutes before the break as McCleary burst forward from a Dons attack, eased past the final two MK defenders before laying off to Matej Vydra in the six-yard box whose effort from close-range somehow rolled wide.
The visitors felt aggrieved midway through the second-half when Vydra was sent through on goal before Kyle McFadzean’s clumsy last-ditch challenge brought the former Watford man down. McFadzean was given a yellow.
And as both sides looked happy to come away with a point, the Dons took the lead through a superb volley from defender Walsh as the game approached the final ten minutes.
Rob Hall’s fizzing corner was only half-cleared by the visitors’ defence. As the ball bounced mid-air between challenges, Walsh popped up inside the six-yard box to smash the ball home on the volley.
“I couldn’t see us losing that game for one minute,” said Royals boss McDermott.“I thought we were going to go on and win it if I’m honest – we were the better team.
“But we got done by a set-play which is what happened to us at Wolves and it’s something I really need to sort out as the manager. We have to start finding the consistency from within us and make sure that we get the right results.
“We know how to get results but we obviously didn’t show that.
“But their goalkeeper did play well and he had to really, otherwise we would be coming out of the game with the three points instead.”
ACROBATIC: Joe Walsh scores the winner and, inset, Josh Murphy battles for the Dons
STAR MAN GARETH McCLEARY