Southampton and MK Dons met at St Mary’s knowing that a victory for either side would improve their chances of at least attaining a top six place.
The game started with Saints opening brightly though chances were difficult to come by. Lallana and Guly nearly fashioned a chance on 6 minutes but the packed defence managed to keep them out. Then Barnard had a shot which was saved comfortably Martin.
With MK Dons looking happy to defend, having Sam Baldock up front on his own, it looked a mere matter of time before Saints finally found a way through. Thoughts of a hard fought 0-0 draw were already crossing the mind.
In the 16th minute a fine move led to Harding whipping in a dangerous cross but nobody could get onto the end of it to convert the chance, and still the only threat to Saints was an occasional burst from Baldock.
Saints continued to press though without the fluency that we have become known for apart from a momentary glimpse. The crowd was still trying to lift the team and when Mackenzie made a mistake at the back Guly wasted the opportunity by blazing over the bar.
MK Dons then showed that they were a threat with Baldock homing in on goal until a great tackle from Butterfield in his tracks. Saints then responded with a great Lallana move who cut in to shoot but was thwarted by martin diving to block.
With Southampton making all of the running it came as a shock when the Dons broke forward and made it count. They gained a corner and from Peter Leven’s corner Mackenzie leaped above the defence to power his header home. First real sight of goal and Dons had made it count.
aints responded well with Hammond getting a shot of that flew just over. Then Jose Fonte had a go hitting a shot wide. The final act of note came with Lallana being fouled out wide. The free-kick was wasted though as it was driven into the wall and cleared. HT 1-0.
Saints began the second half in much the same fashion as the first by attacking from the off. A good sweeping move was ended with Martin collecting Harding’s cross,and Saints continued on the front foot with the Dons seemingly content to keep what they had.
It appeared that a goal was all that was needed to settle the nerves and the goal came in the 52nd minute. With Saints attacking Dons cleared to Baldock who turned and beat Fonte before planting a firm shot past Davis at his near post to double the lead. 2-0 and Saints were struggling.
After a few moments of stunned silence the crowd woke up and again tried to rosr the team forward as it searched for a way back. The Dons on their part seemed to be content with their lot though they still had Baldock posing the occasional threat.
Dons then made their first substitution bringing on Adam Clayton coming on for Rowan Vine. Saints were still struggling and Nigel Adkins then brought on Jonathan Forte for Richard Chaplow.
Two minutes later and Saints had scored. Saints pressed and Lambert sent in a cross which was chested down by Forte before he smashed the ball into the back of the net to open our scoring.
The crowd raised the temperature even further and roared it’s approval. Dale Stephens replaced Do Prado and Lambert fed Hammond who passed the ball on to Lallana before he sent in a cross which was pushed away by Martin but straight to the oncoming Forte and he gleefully stroked the ball home.
The crowd erupted and the ground was rocking loudly as Saints went in search of the winner. Firsty Barnard tried his luck but he shot wide. With the temperature now at boiling point Saints made their final substitution bringing on Richardson for Butterfield.
Dons had a rare attack with Marsh-Brown forcing a respectable save from Davis but the crowd was now baying for a winner. Hammond had a great chance as he met a cross but his header was directed close enough to the keeper for him to take it comfortably.
The next attack saw the ball reach Lambert who turned and played the ball forward to Barnard who ran forward before blasting a superb rising shot beyond Martin into the Dons goal. 3-2 to the Saints and the crowd were going bananas as they celebrated the remarkable turnaround.
The noise was stupendous as the crowd cheered the team on and the Dons looked stunned. The Dons slowly got their game back and then it was them searching for a way back in. The pressure mounted as time ran out and our defence had to really work hard to stay the course.
With time running out a Gleeson shot seemed goal bound but the will of the crowd seemed to help lift the ball onto the crossbar with Davis looking beaten and away to safety.
The clock was nearly showing added time was up as Barnard drew one final rapturous round of cheering. He picked up a clearance from defence on the halfway line, and ran forward beating three players before heading for the corner flag. The ball was finally cleared and then the referee blew for time.
Saints had achieved what had looked beyond them after the hour and pulled the rabbit out of the hat. The team was deliriously applauded from the pitch and we knew we had seen one of those games that would stick in the memory for a long, long time.
Unsurprisingly Jonathan Forte was awarded the man of the match award.
Nigel Adkins – 8
The substitutions worked a treat as we fought back from the brink.
Karl Robinson – 7
His team held sway through some superb defending for an hour but once Saints had turned the tide there was no coming back. Substitutions didn’t seem to alter things.