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Super Dons hit Oldham for six

Two-goal Sam Baldock

By Oli
March 14 2009

Sam Baldock grabbed two goals as Dons turned in a sensational performance to smash promotion rivals Oldham 6-2. Dons trailed twice in the first half but goals from Aaron Wilbraham, Jason Puncheon, Alan Navarro, Ali Gerba and Baldock secured a comfortably victory. Oldham had taken the lead after just four minutes when Kevin Maher curled home a debatable free-kick from 25 yards, but Dons equalised through Wilbraham on 33 minutes. Lee Hughes headed home to complete a superb Oldham counter-attack on 40 minutes before Puncheon pulled the Dons level with an exquisite efforts from a good 40 yards. A second half double from Baldock wrapped up the win before Navarro and Gerba added to the total.

Manager Roberto Di Matteo made one change to the side that drew 1-1 with Huddersfield, Dean Lewington reinstated at left-back after suspension with Jude Stirling dropping to the bench. Oldham were boosted by the inclusion of winger Chris Taylor while Seb Hines partnered Sean Gregan at centre-back with Reuben Hazell suspended.

Dons started brightly but went behind after just four minutes. Miguel Llera was called up for a very soft looking foul on Steve Kabba and Maher floated a free-kick into Willy Gueret's left corner. The ball didn't move quickly, but Gueret seemed to decide that it was out of his reach and was rooted to the spot.

One might have been forgiven for thinking luck had not been favouring the Dons in recent weeks, and that seemed to be continuing with the early free-kick. And although playing well, the Dons were lucky not to go two behind when Kabba robbed Lewington in the Dons half before setting up Hughes, who was stopped by a superb last ditch Sean O'Hanlon tackle. Left sprawled in front of the Cowshed, you can imagine the sort of reaction a man whose popularity is not hitting the roof received.

It looked like things just weren't falling for the Dons on 16 minutes when, racing onto Wilbraham's flick-on, Baldock left Gregan for dead before firing a left-footed shot against the far post. It bounced out and into the arms of goalkeeper Jan Budtz. It was a sign of things to come from the Dons' young striker, who after losing his way a little bit in the last couple of months turned in a performance of the highest quality and tormented the Oldham defence all day long.

Budtz narrowly beat Baldock to another Wilbraham flick before the youngster raced away again, this time down the right, only to be cynically brought down by Gregan. Baldock was furious, as were the Dons supporters, and although a red card would have been harsh as you could argue Gregan wasn't the last man, a yellow card didn't seem like justice done for a totally deliberate foul.

A couple of Puncheon free-kicks caused Oldham some problems in the box before the Dons got their breakthrough on 33 minutes. Leven found Baldock on the left and the striker cut inside before feeding Wilbraham in the box, who fired home past Budtz against his former club. Wilbraham's 14th of the season and Dons were full value for it.

Quickly after the goal the Dons raided forward again, a move involving Baldock, Wilbraham and Puncheon finding Shaun Cummings on the right. The Chelsea loanee's cross was flicked on by Leven at the near post and Wilbraham volleyed narrowly wide.

But it was Oldham who got the next goal and there was very little the Dons could have done about it. The dangerous Daniel Jones raced down the left, beating Cummings for pace to reach a through ball before crossing in superbly for Hughes at the back post, who nodded home. It was a goal of genuine quality and really all the Dons could do was pick themselves back up and respond.

And they did, in quite extraordinary fashion, both in terms of the next goal and their performance for the rest of the match. Two minutes later Puncheon drew the Dons level with his second goal for the Dons since joining on loan. Baldock was again the catalyst, racing onto Lewington's through ball. Budtz just beat him to it but headed only as far as Puncheon, who from a good 40 yards curled the ball superbly into the back of the net.

Dons nearly took the lead just before the break when again the two forwards combined, Wilbraham nodding Baldock's chipped pass into the path of the onrushing Peter Leven, whose shot from the edge of the box when clear through on goal was uncharacteristically weak.

Dons went in at the break in good spirits, but whatever Di Matteo said on top of that clearly worked a treat as MK came out in the second half and put a further four past Budtz in the Oldham goal.

Puncheon went close early on, cutting in from the right and shooting very narrowly wide from ten yards. And Dons took the lead on 53 minutes with Baldock bagging a thoroughly deserved goal, racing onto Lewington's pass down the left before shaking off Gregan, going across the goalkeeper and slotting home.

Five minutes later and he'd all but put the game to bed. Wilbraham held the ball up in the penalty area before flicking it into the six-yard box, where Baldock was on hand to clip it home for his 12th league goal of the season.

Confidence was starting to flow through the Dons' veins, illustrated when Miguel Llera nutmegged Hughes as he brought the ball out of defence on the left. The back four was solid throughout, O'Hanlon in particular an absolute colossus.

Kabba did go close with a header from Liddell's cross, but Oldham rarely threatened from then on. Jemal Johnson and Gerba were introduced for the Dons and shortly after that Navarro secured the result, rifling a powerful left-footed shot in off the post from 20 yards after Johnson had raided inside.

Not content with five, the Dons just kept pressing and pressing. Puncheon's ball into the box was headed down by Wilbraham but Johnson couldn't convert, and then the former cheekily attempted to lob Budtz from one side of the penalty area and only narrowly missed. And in injury time Dons got their sixth, Lewington outmuscling Neil Eardley on the left side of the area and putting the ball across for Gerba, who applied a simple finish.

It was the sort of performance that would merit the tag 'best performance in a long time', but it wasn't, because Dons were arguably just as good against Leicester. This time, though, Dons need to take this performance and replicate it in Tuesday night's Millwall game. They have shown they are good enough to produce this kind of scoreline, and the desire from every single player was top drawer; if they do it regularly, the Championship will be our destination.

Dons: Gueret 6; Cummings 7, O'Hanlon 9, Llera 7, Lewington 7; Chadwick 7 (Johnson 71, 6), Leven 6, Navarro 6 (Belson 89), Puncheon 8; Baldock 9 (Gerba 75), Wilbraham 8.

Unused subs: Abbey, Stirling.

Booked: Puncheon, Llera.

Goals: Wilbraham 33, Puncheon 42, Baldock 53, 58, Navarro 81, Gerba 90.

Oldham: Budtz; Eardley, Gregan, Hines, Jones; Smalley, Allott, Maher (Whitaker 77), Taylor (Liddell 46); Hughes, Kabba (Alessandra 71).

Unused subs: Stam, Fleming.

Booked: Gregan, Taylor, Allott.

Goals: Maher 4, Hughes 40.

Attendance: 10,621.

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