DONS’ FA Cup dream was shattered on Saturday as Barnsley booked a place in the quarter finals, winning 3-1 at stadium:mk.
Dons’ lacklustre first half display effectively gave the Tykes a two goal headstart – first through Chris Dagnall’s third minute strike, and then nine minutes later when Marlon Harewood doubled the lead.
Dons were rejuvenated in the second half, and pulled one back through Dean Bowditch’s persistence, but Dagnall rounded David Martin in stoppage time to wrap things up. Alan Smith was announced man of the match before being shown a straight red card, his second and Dons seventh of the season, for jumping into Martin Crainie as things went from bad to worse for the home side.
As Dons stood on the brink of an FA Cup quarter final place, they made just a single change to the side that drew 0-0 with Doncaster on Tuesday. With Izale McLeod cup tied, Alan Smith started up front.
Pre-match, Dons will have fancied their chances against a Barnsley side stuck in the bottom half of the Championship, but it took just two minutes for the Tykes to take the lead. With Gary MacKenzie dragged out of position, a ball looped over Shaun Williams’ head allowed Chris Dagnall in behind and he made no mistakes with the first chance of the game, sliding the ball into the corner of the net.
Dons didn’t let it affect them though as they went about their usual play, forcing Barnsley deep into their own half, though Dean Bowditch’s fifth minute strike lacked the power.
Barnsley and Dagnall should have had a second 13 minutes in though when the striker again beat the offside trap, played onside by Jon Otsemobor on the far side, but blasted his effort well over the bar with just David Martin to beat.
It was made 2-0 five minutes later though, and it was the simplest of goals for Barnsley to score. Scott Wiseman caught Dean Lewington napping down the Barnsley right, tracking to the byline before cutting back to Marlon Harewood who was never going to miss from 10 yards, hammering low and hard into the bottom corner.
And that goal really rattled Dons. Suddenly, their play was nervous and rushed, and mistakes were beginning to creep in. MacKenzie, Martin and Ryan Harley needlessly gave the ball away in good positions, building the frustrations beginning to grow among the home fans.
Dons switched to play two up front, with Daniel Powell joining Smith in attack, though no-one really managed to put more than a couple of passes together in the top third of the pitch.
Barnsley’s midfield duo of Bobby Hassell and David Perkins completely stopped Dons’ flow, smothering Darren Potter from his usual string pulling and Chadwick from his quick breaks. It meant for a frustrated home side at half time as Barnsley cruised in at the break, barely looking in trouble.
David Flitcroft withdrew the influential Harewood at the break, replacing him with Jason Scotland, but it was another change that had people more concerned – that of Kelvin Etuhu. After a nasty clash on heads with Dons substitute Adam Chicksen, Etuhu had to be stretchered off after a long stoppage in play, which saw Chicksen require stitches on the sideline.
The injury seemed to take it out of Barnley a bit, and it was enough for Dean Bowditch to force a mistake from Tom Kennedy in the defence. Pinching the ball off his toe, Bowditch raced clear of the defence and coolly slotted the ball past Luke Steele in the Barnsley net to reduce the deficit to one– Karl Robinson acting as cheerleader in the technical area urging the home fans to get behind their side.
The goal was the last involvement Bowditch had as he limped down the tunnel, replaced by Chris Lines.
All of a sudden, stadium:mk was rocking, and it breathed a new air of belief into the Dons players. Powell looked dangerous again, winning a free kick right on the edge of the box which Williams put just over, and Lewington rose high above the Barnsley defence but couldn’t direct his header.
At the other end, Perkins made light work of the Dons defence as he raced into the area, but his ball across was well cleared by Lewington.
Alan Smith was having a fine second half, bullying the Barnsley defence, winning everything heaved up field for him to hold up. And twice he came close to drawing Dons level, but both efforts he sent into the stands.
Jason Scotland should have wrapped it up with five minutes of normal time to go as he raced onto Jacob Mellis’ pass, but after cutting inside Chicksen, his attempt to bend it in the top corner didn’t bend at all, instead, firing straight into the Barnsley fans collected behind the goal.
Two minutes later, Mellis should have finished it when Dons were caught again at the back, but he sent his shot just wide of the upright.
But Dagnall drove the final dagger into Dons’ heart in the second minute of 12 added on, beating the offside trap to patiently round Martin and roll the ball in from six yards to make it 3-1.
Smith, just seconds after being announced as man of the match, was then shown a straight red card, controversially, for jumping into Rory Delap with a bit too much vigour – the disappointing icing on the cake.
Dons now just have the League 1 campaign to concentrate on for the remaining three months of the season.
Referee: Michael Jones
Attendance: 14,475 (3,702)
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Otsemobor, MacKenzie, Williams, Potter, Harley (Chicksen 46), Bowditch (Lines 67), Powell, Chadwick, Smith
Subs not used: Doumbe, Flanagan, Alli, Galloway, Rasulo
Barnsley: Steele, Wiseman, Cranie, Kennedy, Golbourne, Hassell (Delap 69), Perkins, Etuhu (O’Brien 57), Mellis, Dagnall, Harewood (Scotland 46)
Subs not used: Alnwick, Foster, Cywka, Rose
Booked: Chadwick, MacKenzie, Williams, Mellis