Conor Coventry scored a magnificent first professional goal on Tuesday night, as his outstanding loan spell at League One side MK Dons continued with a 2-1 win over Crewe Alexandra.
The 22-year-old had previously scored twice for West Ham United U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy, but provided a first senior league goal in a win which saw Liam Manning’s team move – however temporarily – up to second in the table, and into the automatic promotion spots.
Both teams threatened early on at Stadium MK but it was Coventry’s team who took the lead after 24 minutes when Troy Parrott ran in behind and lifted the ball over the visiting goalkeeper.
A half of few chances was nevertheless to yield the Republic of Ireland U21s captain’s maiden strike five minutes before half-time – and what a goal it was.
Picking up the ball in midfield, Coventry drove past three surrounding Crewe players and, from the edge of the box, arced a soaring finish round ‘stopper Dave Richards.
Coventry's goal starts at 1:11 in the video above
The midfielder celebrated the strike with his teammates but was quick to refocus in the second half, playing an inviting cross in after 55 minutes which almost reached Scott Twine.
Crewe would set up a nervy finish with a late consolation goal from substitute Bassala Sambou, who fired home a loose ball inside the area.
Yet the Dons held on for a sensational eleventh win in their last 15 games, a once-unlikely title charge now seemingly on as they moved up to second with five games remaining.
Coventry’s side sit a point behind leaders Wigan Athletic, but two ahead of Rotherham United; both their rivals, however, have admittedly played two games fewer.
Having featured in every MK Dons game since joining on loan on 18 January, Coventry said before the game: “I’m massively enjoying it. There’s a real feel-good factor around the place.
“Everyone knows how well we’re doing and no-one’s getting carried away, but that’s why we’re playing: to win. Some of the football we’re playing, it’s just great to be playing at the moment – we’re enjoying it on every level at the moment.
“I think I’m a much stronger person now after previously being at a place where my opportunities were limited [Peterborough United on loan earlier in the season].
"It makes me grateful for every opportunity that I get now, and it also makes me want to treat every game as if it’s my last. I’ve learned a lot from that.”
✅✅✅🤝🤝✅✅✅✅✅🤝✅✅✅— Milton Keynes Dons (@MKDonsFC) April 6, 2022
To be continued... pic.twitter.com/7C31mCk6a7
Elsewhere in the same division, Nathan Holland and Oxford United’s promotion push suffered another blow with a 2-1 defeat away at Morecambe.
The 23-year-old was restored to Karl Robinson’s starting XI for the trip to Mazuma Arena, but could not help his team get back to winning ways as – having initially gone ahead inside three minutes through Matty Taylor – the U’s were stunned by quickfire first-half goals from Morecambe’s Aaron Wildig and Cole Stockton.
Shortly beforehand, Holland – playing on the left wing – had gone close with two efforts: the first a stinging drive beaten away by Morecambe ‘stopper Trevor Carson, the latter a shot which flew over the bar.
Holland then laid on a glorious opportunity for Taylor moments before half-time, only for the forward to miss his kick, while the West Ham man later had a one-on-one denied by Carson’s studs.
Despite throwing everything at it, Holland departed the field of play after 76 minutes as Oxford succumbed to an undeserved, but damaging, defeat, slipping to eighth in the table, now three points outside of the play-off places with five games to go.