Dons cannot glean much from a game that never was

Aaron Tshibola was sent off after five minutes
Aaron Tshibola was sent off after five minutes

It was almost over before it could even begin. Down to 10 men against a flying Bradford City side, Dons were left with a mountain to scale, even at 0-0.

The 4-1 scoreline flattered the Banthams somewhat but not a lot. They had the running of the midfield with Jakes Reeves and Nicky Law given the freedom of Milton Keynes to ply their trade, greatly aided by struggling Aaron Tshibola's fifth minute red card.

Having already committed two fouls, Tshibola's face matched the card he was flashed when he first lost the ball to Reeves then proceeded to bring him down on the edge of the box, earning him a soft but inevitable red card. And it ruined the game as a spectacle, not that the travelling Bradford fans minded any, of course.

For Dons though, it was a chance to go toe-to-toe with a team already entrenched in a promotion battle. While Blackburn and Wigan were expected before a ball was even kicked, Dons' games against both came too soon to form a real judgement whether they too can battle at the top of the table. Bradford offered up the first test now the team have settled into their new roles. Stuart McCall's side looked every bit a side capable of mixing it at the sharp end all season long. An 11 vs 11 game would have been a great test for Robbie Neilson's ever-improving side, but we were robbed of the chance to see it.

Dons went into the game unbeaten in five, four clean sheets in a row and finally looking like a team on the same page again. The gelling period seemingly now behind them, Neilson is now just waiting on the return of Chuks Aneke and Peter Pawlett before he can really sit down and pick his best 11.

Down to 10 men, Dons were never likely to get anything from the game. Romain Vincelot's header after nine minutes will have angered Neilson, who hates little more than goals from set pieces, before Charlie Wyke's heavily deflected effort beat Lee Nicholls to all but hand Bradford the points after 18 minutes. It was only after that, Dons' initial shell-shock wore off and they were able to get a foothold back in the game, though it coincided with City's ability to take their foot off the gas too.

MK Dons vs Bradford.

MK Dons vs Bradford.

A goal back from Ethan Ebanks-Landell, his second in as many league games, threatened to give Dons a lifeline, but the basic principles of playing to the whistle caught the Dons defence out as Wyke tapped home his third, while they were caught on the counter as they tried to claw it back in vain to allow Paul Taylor to fire home Bradford's fourth.

The performance of referee Scott Oldham will come under the microscope too, but left with little option but to send off Tshibola early on, even some of his dubious decision making will have had little influence on the outcome. There are question marks over the third and fourth goals though and whether they were offside.

One positive from the day was the immediate understanding between Aneke and Osman Sow. Both powerful runners, both desperate to score, they already look to be Neilson's first choice attacking partnership, even if Aneke is still a distance away from playing a full 90 minutes.

Realistically, not an awful lot can be gleamed from the game, from a Dons perspective. Seldom will they have to play with 10 men this season - they've only done so once, on the opening day against Wigan, and even then it was to level things up at 10 apiece. Down a man in midfield, allowing Law and Reeves to play and create, it was a task they could never win.

Dons boss Robbie Neilson

Dons boss Robbie Neilson