Dons suffered their first home defeat of the season on Tuesday night, losing to Bradford City 2-1 at stadium:mk.
Bradford capitalised on two mistakes from Dons’ defence and took advantage, with goals in quick succession from Aaron McLean and Billy Clarke to put them 2-0 up, before Dean Lewington pulled one back before the break.
Karl Robinson was sent to the stands in the second period as Dons threw everything at City’s resolute defence, to no avail.
Despite scoring five times against Barnsley, Robinson made four changes to his starting line-up. Leading goal-scorer Benik Afobe was replaced by Will Grigg, Ben Reeves came in for Dean Bowditch, Kyle McFadzean returned from suspension to replace Jordan Spence in the centre of defence, and Darren Potter recovered from his groin strain and took over from Mark Randall in the engine room.
After the drama three days prior at Oakwell, Dons started a lot slower at stadium:mk. Gone was the pace of attacks seen at Barnsley, instead a more patient approach adopted by the forward quartet, though it didn’t stop Samir Carruthers from trying a few audacious efforts from range which inevitably found the stand behind the goal.
Bradford looked set up with the intention of feeding on scraps, and both Billy Clarke and Aaron McLean made David Martin work early on as they capitalised on some uneasy Dons defending. Both chances though were easily dealt with by the keeper. The pair would have their say shortly afterwards though.
Daniel Powell, who looked on top form on Saturday, showed signs that he may have carried it through when he jinked past Stephen Darby and then Rory McArdle before forcing Jordan Pickford into his first stop of the game, diving full-stretch to his right to prevent Powell’s fierce shot from sneaking in at the near post.
McLean, having earlier missed a decent chance in front of goal, made no mistakes to put Bradford into the lead after 24 minutes, rising above the Dons defence to head Billy Knott’s corner into the net.
And it was made doubly worse for the home side barely two minutes later when Antony Kay gave the ball away needlessly in the centre of the park, allowing Clarke to rifle home from the edge of the box, driving the ball low into the corner, leaving Martin with no chance.
There was little in the way of an up-tempo response from Dons though, as they continued to patiently pass their way around the attacking third, playing some nice stuff but in safe areas. Will Grigg spurned Dons’ best chance when he pinched the ball from under Christopher Routis’ nose to break on goal, but telegraphed his strike, allowing Rory McArdle to get the block in.
Pickford’s handling looked suspect throughout the first half as he parried and spilled what appeared to be fairly routine balls, but by and large he was able to rely on his defence to come to his rescue. But three minutes before the break, he parried one too many, this time Carruthers’ free kick was palmed to Dons skipper Dean Lewington, who made no mistakes in pulling one back for Dons.
And they could have been level a minute later, but Carruthers’ radar was still slightly out, whipping his strike just wide of the upright, with Pickford getting nowhere near it.
It left the second half finely poised. Robinson rolled the dice after just seven second half minutes, replacing Carruthers with Afobe.
Dons lost a vital cog on the hour mark, though the absence wasn’t felt on the pitch but the touchline as Robinson was sent to the stands by referee Andre Marriner. Dons continued to press, but their chances were limited as Bradford defended deep and in number, suffocating the home side in the attacking third.
The visitors, while not looking too keen to carve out a third, continued to look threatening on the counter though, and Mark Yeates wasted a golden opportunity with 17 minutes to go, firing first time straight at Martin when he had plenty of time to bring the ball under control.
Dons looked all the more threatening in the final 10 minutes, but the killer chance never came. Bowditch looked dangerous on the right flank when he came on, but he saw three excellent balls into the box somehow diverted away from goal.
In the dying moments of stoppage time, Darren Potter blasted over from barely 10 yards out, summing up Dons’ evening, and leaving them to lick the wounds of their first home defeat of the season.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Attendance: 7,139 (251)
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Baldock (Hitchcock 76), McFadzean, Kay, Potter, Alli, Powell, Carruthers (Afobe 52), Reeves (Bowditch 60), Grigg
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Spence, Randall
Bradford City: Pickford, Darby, Meredith, McLean (McBurnie 60), Liddle, Clarke (Bennett 77), Knott (Morais 73), Yeates, Kennedy, Routis, McArdle
Sub not used: Urwin, Wright, King
Booked: Liddle, Darby, Yeates, Baldock, Potter