MK Dons 2-3 Coventry City: Slow start to second half costs Dons dearly

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A STEPHEN Elliot double at the start of the second half ensured MK Dons suffered back-to-back defeats as they lost to Coventry City on Saturday.

In a thrilling end-to-end battle, Elliot’s brace shortly after the half-time break cancelled out Dons’ 2-1 advantage they richly deserved after a brilliant first half.

Daniel Powell put Dons ahead after 15 minutes with a fine shot from the edge of the box, before the home side were pegged back by a fine solo effort from Franck Moussa levelled it up 10 minutes later. Ryan Lowe’s fifth goal in five put Dons back ahead shortly before the break.

It compounds what has been a miserable Christmas period so far for Karl Robinson’s men. Having their game with Doncaster called off at the 11th hour last Saturday, they lost 4-2 on Boxing Day to Walsall. And falling to Coventry, it sees Dons now slip outside of the play-off spots.

Robinson reverted to his preferred back four with Shaun Williams returning to the centre of defence after his brief flutter in midfield on Boxing Day. Mathias Doumbe was dropped, with Alan Smith taking over from Angelo Balanta in the hole behind Ryan Lowe. Dele Alli also came in, playing alongside Darren Potter. While fans were left disappointed to see Stephen Gleeson on crutches in the dugout during the warm-up, Gary MacKenzie’s long awaited return brightened things up a bit as he made the substitutes bench.

After the disappointment of Boxing Day’s lacklustre 4-2 defeat to Walsall, Dons looked a new beast come kick off. Daniel Powell looked dangerous once again, and almost played Ryan Lowe in twice in the opening 15 minutes, while Dean Bowditch floated infield and enjoyed a bit of time on the ball as he looked to take on Cyrus Christie.

But it was Powell who would deliver the opening blow in the affair after 15 minutes. Receiving the ball 25 yards out, he drove towards the box, squaring up full-back Blair Adams before cutting inside onto his weaker left foot before firing low into the far corner of the net, past Joe Murphy’s full-stretch dive.

Coventry weren’t without chances of their own, but in the early stages, Stephen Elliot’s radar was out of alignment. First, he shanked a shot well wide of the mark, before being unable to direct his free header as it looped harmlessly over David Martin’s net. He also had a penalty shout turned away immediately by referee Andy Woolmer when he collapsed under pressure from Antony Kay when through on goal.

Coventry did draw level though after 26 minutes, and it came from a moment of magic from Franck Moussa. Picking the ball up just inside the Dons half, he powered forward, skipping past Dele Alli and Shaun Williams in the box before lashing the ball into the roof of the net, offering Martin no chance.

It was real end to end stuff, with both sides looking dangerous going forwards. Gary McSheffery stung the palms of Martin in the Dons net with a drive from 30 yards, while Bowditch and Smith both had efforts at the other end come to nothing.

But given half a sniff of goal lately, Lowe didn’t need another invitation to find the net and put Dons 2-1 ahead. Picking up the ball just outside the box from Bowditch, he twisted William Edjenguele into a spin, giving the striker time to fire low and unchallenged past Murphy into the bottom corner, giving Dons the edge seven minutes before half time.

But Coventry struck quickly in the second half, and quickly found themselves not just level but leading. After Darren Potter headed narrowly wide, Elliot finally found the target as he rose above Lewington four minutes after the restart to head home McSheffrey’s cross.

And he wasn’t done there, when a minute later he broke 50 yards to latch on to a long clearance, beating Kay for pace and firing into the bottom corner to put City sensationally ahead in front of almost 5,000 travelling supporters.

It could have been even worse had Martin not been alert to Carl Baker’s crafty shot through a crowd of players, which the keeper did well with diving to his left.

A fairly ineffective hour in the hole for Alan Smith came to an end when Robinson swapped him for Angelo Balanta, moving Bowditch into the centre.

Dons continued to press for the equaliser, enjoying long spells of possession without really troubling the City defence. Another reshuffle saw Zeli Ismail replacing Dele Alli, and taking up residence on the left flank.

Despite having most of the ball in the second half, Dons barely threatened Murphy’s goal. Coventry sat back, content to let the home side stroke the ball around nicely in the midfield and break fleetingly down the flanks, but all too often, the attacks fizzled out without much drama.

Angelo Balanta summed up his umpteenth loan spell at the club when he missed a sitter at the far post after fine work from Powell in the box. The Colombian found space at the far post but incredibly scuffed wide when it looked easier to score.

Defeat sees Dons slip to seventh in the League 1 table, outside the play-off places and now eight points off the leaders.

Referee: Andy Woolmer

Attendance: 13,660 (4,998)

MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Williams, Kay, Chicksen, Potter, Smith (Balanta 57), Alli (Ismail 71), Powell, Bowditch, Lowe (MacDonald, 78)

Subs not used: McLoughlin, Doumbe, MacKenzie, Sekajja

Coventry City: Murhpy, Baker, Fleck, McSheffery (Barton 78), Elliot (O’Donovan 73), Christie, Wood, Edjenguele, Jennings, Moussa, Adams

Subs not used: Dunn, Clarke, Cameron, McDonald, Thomas

Booked: Smith, Chicksen, Lewington, McSheffrey