Scott Twine equaled a club record four goals in a game to help Milton Keynes Dons finish third in League One – and end Plymouth Argyle’s hopes of a play-off place – with a thumping 5-0 win at Home Park.
Twine’s superb free-kick gave Dons an early lead after an action-packed start to the game.
He doubled the advantage as he blasted into the far corner and Harry Darling headed in a third shortly after, before Argyle had Jordan Houghton sent off for a second booking just before the break.
Twine side-footed home David Kasumu’s pull-back from the byeline for his third, and as 10-man Argyle tired he got his fourth from the edge of the box as his right-footed effort went in off the post.
Despite the victory Milton Keynes finished a point outside of the automatic promotion spots after Wigan and Rotherham both won to secure first and second place respectively.
Liam Manning’s side will now face Wycombe in the play-offs after they leapfrogged Argyle into sixth place following a 1-1 draw at Burton Albion.
The defeat for Argyle was so heavy that even a one-goal defeat at Burton for Wycombe would not have been enough to keep the Pilgrims in the play-off places.
It was Argyle’s fifth successive game without a win and saw them drop out of the play-offs for the first time since early March.
Twine stars as Dons dream of promotion
Both sides should have taken the lead inside the opening 15 minutes as Twine crashed a free-kick off the crossbar, having had Cooper beaten, while at the other end Argyle striker Luke Jephcott twice put close-range efforts wide of the far post after low sticks from the left by Jordan Garrick and Ryan Law.
But Twine did score from a set-piece moments later, with a superb curling effort into the top corner from a central position from 20 yards.
James Wilson had Argyle’s only meaningful first-half effort on target as his header from Steven Sessegnon’s cross was parried away by Jamie Cumming soon after.
But the game turned in a six-minute spell shortly before the break – first Jephcott missed another close-range chance and a minute later Troy Parrott broke the hosts’ offside trap and forced a good save from Cooper.
From the the resulting corner Twine picked the ball up on the left corner of the box, beat Wilson and blasted past Cooper for his second.
Darling headed home a third three minutes later as the defender found himself unmarked from a corner six yards out.
But the half got even worse for Steven Schumacher’s side when Houghton was given a soft-looking second yellow card for tugging David Kasumu’s shirt after protests from a number of MK Dons players.
Twine missed a near-post effort 10 minutes after the break, but the summer signing from Swindon made no mistake soon after as he converted from seven yards before forcing a fine diving save from Cooper with a header 11 minutes later.
He matched Will Grigg’s record of four goals in a game for MK Dons when he got his 20th of the season, to put the gloss on an excellent display.
“We were ruthless, we kept a high line, we dominated the game and after the red card it sort of killed them really,” Twine told Sky Sports after the game.
“I’m buzzing, most things went right today so I’m happy.
“Wycombe are a great team, but we’ll focus on ourselves and if we play like we did today we’ll be confident we’ll win.”
Another season in the Championship?
Liam Manning’s side will now travel to Wycombe on Thursday, May 5 in the first leg of the play-offs before the return game three days later.
The last time the club were promoted from this division Dele Alli scored 16 goals before a big-money move to Tottenham.
But six years on from relegation in their first and only season in the Championship, Milton Keynes Dons are dreaming of a return to the EFL’s elite.
A run of 13 wins in 17 games between mid-January and the start of this month fired Manning’s side into promotion contention.
But a three-game winless run earlier this month seemed to have ended any hopes of automatic promotion before Wigan and Rotherham were both beaten on Tuesday.
After 19th and 13th-placed finishes in League One in the past two seasons Dons fans will now hope they can progress in the play-offs and improve on that one season in the Championship under Karl Robinson, when they finished 23rd and won just nine matches .
A foundation for Argyle to build on?
While a seventh-placed finish in just their second season back in the third tier is probably more than any Argyle fan would have hoped for at the start of the season, missing out on the play-offs will still hurt.
The Pilgrims were top of the table in November and were eight points above seventh place at the start of this month.
But a five-game winless run to end the season, including a defeat at Wycombe and draws with Sunderland and Wigan before Saturday’s defeat by MK Dons, ended their hopes of the play-offs.
However, in rookie manager Steven Schumacher they have a man who has, in the main, shored up the club’s defense and led them to almost knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup.
If they can keep star players such as Ryan Hardie, Cooper and Panutche Camara over the summer, and keep building their squad, there is no reason why they cannot one better in 12 months’ time.
- 5WilsonBooked at 32mins
- 3GillespheySubstituted forRandelldid 45′minutes
- 17S Sessegnon
- 4HoughtonBooked at 45mins
- 14GarrickSubstituted forEdwardsdid 64′minutes
- 31JephcottSubstituted forEnnisdid 45′minutes
- 8KasumuSubstituted forSmithdid 82′minutes
- 16McEachranSubstituted forKempdid 69′minutes
- 9TwineSubstituted forWickhamdid 79′minutes
- Craig Hicks
Match ends, Plymouth Argyle 0, MK Dons 5.
Second Half ends, Plymouth Argyle 0, MK Dons 5.
Foul by Matthew Smith (MK Dons).
Steven Sessegnon (Plymouth Argyle) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Corner, MK Dons. Granted by James Wilson.
Attempt saved. Daniel Kemp (MK Dons) right footed shot from the center of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Kaine Hayden with a cross.
Attempt saved. Joe Edwards (Plymouth Argyle) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Niall Ennis.
Offside, MK Dons. Daniel Kemp tries a through ball, but Connor Wickham is caught offside.
Daniel Harvie (MK Dons) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Joe Edwards (Plymouth Argyle).
Attempt saved. Harry Darling (MK Dons) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Conor Coventry.
Substitution, MK Dons. Matthew Smith replaces David Kasumu.
David Kasumu (MK Dons) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Adam Randell (Plymouth Argyle).
Substitution, MK Dons. Connor Wickham replaces Scott Twine.
Goal! Plymouth Argyle 0, MK Dons 5. Scott Twine (MK Dons) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner.
Attempt saved. Kaine Hayden (MK Dons) left footed shot from the center of the box is saved in the top center of the goal.
Foul by Kaine Hayden (MK Dons).
Joe Edwards (Plymouth Argyle) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, MK Dons. Granted by Michael Cooper.