All smoke but no fire in disappointing derby

A smoke flare goes off during the EFL Sky Bet League 1 match between AFC Wimbledon and Milton Keynes Dons at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, Kingston, England on 14 March 2017. PSI-3497-0084
A smoke flare goes off during the EFL Sky Bet League 1 match between AFC Wimbledon and Milton Keynes Dons at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, Kingston, England on 14 March 2017. PSI-3497-0084

For all the bravado, circumstance and precaution surrounding MK Dons’ first trip to face AFC Wimbledon, it was an occasion the visitors will quickly want to consign to the far reaches of their memory banks.

A huge security presence - including 15 police riot fans parked outside the Cherry Red Records Stadium on Tuesday night - made high-visibility jackets the stand-out sight among the 4,100 in attendance, but the tumultuous build-up and social media posturing ended in a ‘better safe than sorry’ conclusion.

MK Dons goalkeeper David Martin (1) punches clear during the EFL Sky Bet League 1 match between AFC Wimbledon and Milton Keynes Dons at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, Kingston, England on 14 March 2017. PSI-3497-0036

MK Dons goalkeeper David Martin (1) punches clear during the EFL Sky Bet League 1 match between AFC Wimbledon and Milton Keynes Dons at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, Kingston, England on 14 March 2017. PSI-3497-0036

With little to no mention of MK Dons in the programme - two uses of ‘Milton Keynes’ and no pictures of players - and a scoreboard featuring the two letters ‘MK’, the hissing welcome was lightened by Dons fans arriving early, though only encouraged the home supporters when chairman Pete Winkelman joined them in the away end.

During warm-up and the opening 20 minutes, the atmosphere bubbled, vocally but little else.

The game though would ultimately be the biggest disappointment of the affair.

Even top flight official Roger East was drafted in to keep a lid on both sides in case the passion from the stands filtered out onto the pitch.

There was no threat of that though as the poor spectacle unfolded on the pitch, both sides clearly struggling for consistency or form at League 1 level, even now, and the quality on show was low.

With just a single shot on target from Dons’ Harvey Barnes, it was all to play for in the second half, but while one side came out of the dressing room, the other seemingly remained inside - and they were made to pay.

A lacklustre, hapless, drab MK Dons side were distinctly second best all over the field, so when Jake Reeves wrapped home his first goal for AFC on 62 minutes, the writing was on the wall.

Lyle Taylor’s strike six minutes later epitomised Dons’ night. Given entirely too much time on the ball, Taylor shrugged off Ed Upson like he wasn’t even there, taking two touches into the box unchallenged before blasting it past David Martin to double the home side’s advantage.

With no spark, no signs life, Dons limped through to the final whistle, leaving AFC to celebrate their win - their second in five meetings - with a lap of honour.