The Hatters’ first visit to Stadium MK in nearly 14 years saw them record their first back-to-back victories of the campaign, with a second successive win by the odd goal in three.
Louie Barry, shortly after the quarter-hour mark, scored against one of his former loan clubs to put County in front – and although the initial lead was short-lived, Nick Powell regained it as half-time beckoned with what proved to be the winner.
The Hatters took to the field in sunny, but – to the tune of a dozen degrees – mercifully rather kinder, weather conditions than the extreme heat to which they had been subjected when meeting the ‘Dons’ of Wimbledon at Plough Lane a week earlier. And their starting line-up showed a single change from that match in South West London, as Ibou Touray returned from international duty with The Gambia to replace Alfie Pond in a back four. Joel Cotterill, who had also been away the previous weekend – with Wales Under-21s, in his case – rejoined the squad and was named among the substitutes, together with returning club captain Paddy Madden.
The fourth-placed hosts’ bench included long-serving defender Dean Lewington, who held the remarkable distinction of having played in all 10 of their meetings with County between 2004 and 2010, and, 13 years on, was close to clocking up 800 league appearances (as well as having made nearly 900 in all competitions) for them.
Ethan Pye’s foul on Jonathan Leko half a dozen minutes into the contest presented MK with an early chance – courtesy of a free-kick 25 yards out, which leading scorer Mo Eisa curled just wide of County’s right post.
Their next scoring opportunity, five minutes later, was on target – with Ben Hinchliffe doing well to parry Cameron Norman’s well-struck shot past the same upright, after the right wing-back had been teed up from the near by-line by his skipper, Alex Gilbey.
Barry, who had spent part of the previous season at Milton Keynes, struck County’s inaugural shot with 17 minutes on the clock – and, having been fed by Touray, sparked delight among the travelling fans by firing it from just inside the box and into the top-right corner for his fifth goal in successive league games to give the Hatters the lead.
County’s advantage lasted nine minutes, before the hosts levelled – with Eisa converting from close range after Tommy Smith, to the far side of goal, had headed on Ethan Robson’s cross from the right following a short corner routine with Dawson Devoy.
The match continued in open vein as Tanto Olaofe chipped beyond the far post from the right – and, at the other end, Robson fired over from the edge of the area, before Eisa struck the left post with a point-blank shot eight minutes ahead of the break.
Then, halfway through four minutes of time added on, Powell, with rather nice timing, both restored County’s lead for the interval, and registered his first competitive goal as a Hatter – heading home a looping delivery from the right by Macauley Southam-Hales.
HALF-TIME: MK Dons 1 (Eisa, 26), County 2 (Barry, 17; Powell, 45 + 2).
The hosts fashioned the first opportunity of the new half seven minutes after the resumption, as Danny Harvie struck the left side-netting – before Antoni Sarceic tested the home goalkeeper with an effort from the right, which Craig MacGillivray dived to smother.
Odin Bailey, half a dozen minutes or so following his introduction, made MacGillivray work further – forcing the MK ‘keeper to tip beyond the right post a low shot from the edge of the box. And the end-to-end fare continued, as Warren O’Hora headed over Devoy’s delivery from the right.
Two home substitutes went close in quick succession, as Ellis Harrison drilled wide of the left upright, and Jack Payne stung Ben Hinchliffe’s hands – with County’s Number One at full stretch brilliantly to parry the shot beyond the right post.
With just under a quarter of an hour remaining, good work on the right by Olaofe on the right teed up Will Collar – but the final touch by the scorer of the winner at Wimbledon lacked power, taking a deflection en route for MacGillivray to gather up.
A left-footed shot by Southam-Hales in the final minute of the regular 90 was deflected behind – and, in the course of an additional six, another Bailey effort was parried by MacGillivray, before Collar blasted over on the rebound.
The hosts, for their part, attacked through Gilbey, who cut in from the right before being thwarted by substitute Akil Wright – whose block led to a corner from the right that Jack Tucker went close to converting at the far post.
But the Hatters held on to move up four places to 13th, just two points behind MK and the play-off positions.
FULL-TIME: MK Dons 1 (Eisa, 26), County 2 (Barry, 17; Powell, 45 + 2).
Team (4-1-2-1-2): Hinchliffe; Southam-Hales, Horsfall, Pye, Touray; Croasdale (Capt.); Collar, Sarcevic; Powell (Bailey, 51); Olaofe, Barry (Wright, 76).
Unused Subs: J. Smith, Madden, Cotterill, Pond, Richardson.
Booked: Barry, Pye.
Attendance: 7,085 (1,064 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Ben Wright.