STEPHEN Gleeson must improve his discipline or risk being forced to find a new club in the summer, writes Toby Lock.
The midfielder, whose contract is up in June, returned from a two match suspension for Tuesday night’s 1-0 home defeat to Yeovil, but was given a marginally earlier shower than his Dons team-mates after being shown a straight red card in stoppage time for kicking out at Gavin Williams.
His recent ban came after he collected his 10th booking of the season against Bury last month. And following a 30-minute chat with his manager immediately after the match, Karl Robinson promised that if he doesn’t learn from his mistakes, he will need to look for alternative employment.
“He’s kicked out,” Robinson said. “I don’t know how severe it was. But Stephen Gleeson has a lot to learn. He has all the ability in the world.
“I backed Gary MacKenzie after he did it, but it really can not keep happening, no matter who it is.
“The ultimate penalty is that he’s out for a number of games. I’ve had a good chat with him and he’ll come back bigger and stronger.
“Internally, he’ll be dealt with, and if he learns from it, he will be coming back a better player in four games time. If he doesn’t, he knows where his future lies.”
Gleeson’s red card mattered little in the grand scheme of the game as Dons had chance after chance to get back on level terms after Adam Chicksen’s own goal six minutes from the break – a goal described by Robinson as the ‘wackiest’ he has ever seen. Yeovil midfielder Gavin Williams tried to claim it, but the final touch came off the Dons defender.
Try as they might, Dons just could not break down the resolute Yeovil defence, that had to withstand 90 minutes of bombardment. Although they did get the perfect opportunity to earn a point from a second half Dean Bowditch penalty.
It was another patch-work Dons side taking to the field but Robinson could at least boast a full compliment of substitutes after naming just four away at Hartlepool on Saturday.
Jabo Ibehre dropped to the bench for the return of Bowditch, but an injury to James Tavernier meant he missed out, replaced by Chicksen. Gleeson returned from his suspension and started in the centre of the midfield.
Back on home soil after two long away trips, Dons were clearly keen to get the scoring underway quickly, and with attacking threats all over the pitch, it wasn’t long before the shots went flying in on Sam Walker’s goal.
Jay O’Shea twice fired on goal in the opening five minutes and should have done better from the second opportunity in particular as he, Gleeson and Daniel Powell failed to take advantage of a three-on-two Dons break.
Yeovil’s fluorescent yellow kit was there for all to see, but Gleeson clearly missed Andrew Williams standing between the two centre backs when he tried to play a ball wide after 22 minutes. Fortunately though, David Martin was quick to react to the danger, pouncing on the striker before he had a chance to make Dons pay.
As the ever-rotating attack saw Alan Smith, Powell and Bowditch share the striking responsibilities, none of them could muster a shot on target as the extremely stout Yeovil defence went in search of their first clean sheet since December.
And their lack of accuracy in attack would come back to haunt them as Yeovil, like Hartlepool on Saturday, took the lead against the run of play six minutes from the break.
Lawson D’Ath found space on the edge of the box after some indecisiveness from the Dons defence, but his shot appeared to be sailing out for a throw-in. However, it turned out to be a fantastic pass to Gavin Williams who ghosted in behind Chicksen.
From the corner of the six yard box, he shot across Martin, with the ball taking a cruel deflection off Chicksen as it bounced into the net, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
But Dons were handed a huge slice of luck a minute before time when Dean Parrett, who was earlier booked for a terrible challenge on Gleeson, clattered into Shaun Williams well after the ball had gone, reducing the Glovers to 10 men.
As seen so often at stadium:mk, Dons were quickly out the blocks and on the front foot, desperately seeking a way back into the game.
Dons piled forward, enjoying almost all of the possession as Yeovil looked content to sit back and defend deep.
And it was them filling the box with players that gave Dons an ideal opportunity to get back on level terms. Bowditch lined up yet another cross from the left, but the ball struck the out-stretched arm of Luke Ayling, and referee Dean Mohareb pointed straight to the penalty spot.
But it wasn’t looking like Dons’ night when Bowditch stepped up to take the spot kick, and Walker guessed right to save – although the ball squirmed from under him before he pounced on it, preventing the goal.
Yeovil were limited – partly through their own choice of tactics – to hitting Dons on the counter, and on two occasions caught the home side napping in defence. But Martin was quick off his goal line both times to make vital clearances and to restart the ongoing Dons onslaught.
To their credit though, Yeovil were defending magnificently. Richard Hinds and skipper Paul Huntington were heading clear cross after cross in an unusually packed penalty area.
It just wasn’t going Dons’ way as shot after shot was blocked, deflected, even hitting their own players on the way through. But nothing was bouncing their way at the all important moments.
As the clock ticked down, it was Walker who was the hero again as he kept out Smith’s close-range effort among the countless high balls into the box that he plucked out of the sky.
Gleeson was shown his straight red card in stoppage time, and the final whistle was met with boos from the home crowd.
“The booing doesn’t bother me,” said Robinson afterwards. “It was more through frustration I think. I don’t think any fan can come here and say the players did not give it their all.
“They may be disappointed with the sending off or the missed chances, but how can you miss penalties and miss from three or four yards out? It just baffles me to the extent that it’s comical.
“There are times when they need to get behind us a bit more, but our fans are magnificent.
“Booing is part of the industry, but if they think that’s a bad performance, go and watch some of the other teams in this division and see what a bad performance really is.
“We let in the wackiest goal I’ve ever seen – someone shoots and it ends up in someone else’s path, he miss-kicks it again and it goes in off one of our defenders. But that’s football.
“I thought the players did enough to win three or four games but we have to be more ruthless in front of goal, and that’s the harsh reality. It was just one of those days.”
Dons face another south west side at stadium:mk on Saturday as they take on relegation battling Exeter City. Robinson’s men were 2-0 winners at St James’ Park last August will want a swift return to winning ways.