Doran dominates for Dons as Walsall throw it away

MK Dons 1 Walsall 0
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The Independent Football

Paul Ince's managerial rehabilitation is a work in progress, but there are signs his return to Milton Keynes, the club he guided to promotion from League Two before his short and unhappy reign at Blackburn Rovers, will work out satisfactorily for both.

It might, anyway, if his side can keep winning terrible games in which they have been largely outplayed, and it certainly will if he keeps using his contacts to bring in players like Aaron Doran. Judging by the fact that they have let him take the 18-year-old Irishman on a month's loan, Ince clearly did not burn all his bridges with Blackburn, and it paid off yesterday.

Technically, creatively and physically the young winger, who has already made three Premier League appearances for Rovers, was the best player on the pitch by a distance, and it was down to his influence that the Dons came away with three points.

In fairness to Ince, a lot of his better players, like striker Aaron Wilbraham and midfielder Jason Puncheon, are short on games and match fitness and, as he pointed out afterwards, injuries have left him a long way from being able to put out his preferred team. "In the circumstances, when the sides around us always seem to be able to put out their first elevens, for us to be amongst them is very pleasing," Ince said.

"I've only been here six or seven weeks and it's been a hard road, we're playing catch up. Give me another six months to a year, because it takes that sort of time to build a team, but in the meantime we're grinding out results, and that has to be encouraging."

Walsall began far more brightly. Darren Byfield had two good chances in the first four minutes, and the Saddlers continued to keep their opponents on the back foot, though the Dons weren't helped by losing centre-half David McCracken and left-back Dean Lewington before the first period had reached the halfway point.

It was 20 minutes before MK had a shot of any kind, but having done so, they began to look dangerous. Well, Doran did, anyway, and his pace and control had already caused Walsall several panicky moments when he dribbled to the by-line and hit a firm, low cross that both cut out Walsall goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin and put the ball on a plate for Jermaine Easter to turn into the empty goal.

Most of the rest of the chances in a poor game fell to Walsall. Byfield wriggled clear only to see his effort blocked by Dons' goalkeeper Willy Guerét, and in the second half saw a deflected shot clip the bar.