DONS’ promotion hopes were dealt another serious dash on Saturday as they were thumped 3-0 by play-off rivals Bournemouth.
Lewis Grabban opened the scoring after eight minutes, capitalising on a hopeless back pass by Jon Otsemobor. Dons looked the better side for the remainder of the half, but Ryan Lowe lost his cool with five minutes to go before the break, leaping in to a challenge with Tommy Elphick, earning him a straight red card. Pugh made it 2-0 before the whistle went. Dons came out with fire in their bellies, but simply didn’t make Shwan Jalal work in the Bournemouth net. Harry Arter made it 3-0 with six minutes to play, confining Dons to their second defeat on the bounce.
With Antony Kay banned for four matches for his second sending off of the season against Yeovil on Tuesday night, Mathias Doumbe was recalled to the starting line-up. Chris Lines was handed his first start, Ryan Lowe recovered from the eye injury which saw him withdrawn after half an hour at Huish Park and Izale McLeod dropped to the bench.
Dons looked comfortable in the opening stages, neatly pinging the ball about in the Bournemouth half, firmly keeping a lid on the Cherries. But after a patient Dons move, which the whole team got involved with, it was Bournemouth who capitalised and took the lead. With eight minutes on the clock, Jon Otsemobor was made to back track with the ball, but sold David Martin horribly short with the back pass, allowing Lewis Grabban to nip in, round the keeper and slot home the opener.
A shell-shocked Dons could’ve found themselves 2-0 down two minutes later when Lines was dispossessed on the edge of the box, and Grabban again shot on site but bent his effort just wide of the mark – a real let off for Dons.
That scare made the home side a lot more wary of how high up their line was until that point. Sitting much deeper, their build-up play was much more limited, though when their first chances did eventually come, Ryans Harley and Lowe didn’t trouble Shwan Jalal in the Bournemouth net.
Dons continued to look the better side for the rest of the half. Lines and Harley looked comfortable on the ball and aware of their roles, ably supporting Lowe up front. But for all the pressure, Jalal remained untested as attacks broke down at crucial moments, the key ball going awry, though their progress was hardly helped by some questionable refereeing decisions.
Lowe was given a firm talking to after he clashed with Bournemouth skipper Tommy Elphick, both having to be separated. This relationship would rear it’s ugly head again later.
Jalal was finally forced into action four minutes before the half time whistle when Lowe was sent through but aiming for the far angle, Jalal did well to keep it out.
It would be Lowe’s last piece of constructive play, as he lunged two-footed down on Elphick just inside the Dons half – referee Scott Mathieson racing to the striker with red card in hand. Handbags ensued as Dons tried to wrestle Lowe from the pitch.
The first half drama didn’t end there though, as both Doumbe and Williams failed to deal with Grabban in the area, allowing him to shoot from a tight angle. While Martin kept out the initial effort, Otsemobor was unable to get to the on-coming Marc Pugh who fired into the empty net giving Bournemouth a 2-0 lead at the break.
Izale McLeod was thrust into the action for the second half, replacing Adam Chicksen in a vain attempt to offer something threatening up front. And he certainly got the crowd going. Within two minutes of coming on, he chased down a long ball and came together with Seaborne, though his appeals for a free kick on the edge of the box came up short with the referee giving the decision the other way.
Bournemouth knew they were in control though. They calmly passed the ball around, playing Dons at their own game to an extent making the home side chase to get even s sniff. When Dons did get the ball, long balls up to McLeod left him isolated and hopelessly outnumbered, with few options for a get out pass.
While Bournemouth didn’t need a third goal, they came close to getting one 10 minutes into the half when Brett Pitman was left unmarked in the centre and was brilliantly picked out by Pugh from the left. But the striker’s header was straight down Martin’s throat.
He had another fine effort 10 minutes later, turning Williams and striking sweetly but just wide.
Alan Smith was brought on at the expense of Doumbe to add some vital fight in the centre of the park. And he was key in Dons’ best chance of the game on 62 minutes. Williams broke into the Bournemouth half and slipped in McLeod down the left. He came inside, laid the ball into Smith, who in turn teed up Williams again to strike. The shot beat Jalal, but not the woodwork. Fortunately for McLeod, the flag was up, sparing his embarrassment as he put wide from a yard with an empty net to aim at.
But like in the first half, Dons may have dominated the possession stats, but they simply didn’t create enough to get back into it.
At the other end, Bournemouth looked dangerous, but Williams was mighty on his own at centre back, mopping up anything resembling a threat.
But there was nothing he could have done about Harry Arter’s 84th minute rocket from the edge of the area, darting into the top corner, leaving Martin with no chance and securing all three points for the Cherries.
The defeat sees Dons now languishing in 11th place in League 1, a far cry from the play-off spots and facing a huge challenge in he next three months to make their promotion dreams a reality.
Referee: Scott Mathieson
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Otsemobor, Williams, Doumbe (Smith 62), Potter, Lines (Ismail 78), Harley, Chicksen (McLeod 46), Bowditch, Lowe
Subs not used: Flanagan, Baldock, Alli
Bournemouth: Jalal, Elphick (Richie 45), Pugh, McQuoid (Hughes 78), Cook, Seaborne, Arter, O’Kane, Grabban (Tubbs 86), Francis, Pitman
Subs not used: Allsop, Partington, Fletcher, Fogden
Sent off: Lowe