A catastrophic mix-up between Antony Kay and Ian McLoughlin saw Dons go crashing down 3-2 to Shrewsbury on Tuesday night
Despite dominating the opening stages, Dons quickly found themselves 2-0 down when Tom Eaves struck twice in three minutes for Shrews against the run of play. Ryan Lowe pulled one back before the break, and levelled things up just a minute into the second period as it looked as though there’d only be one winner.
But a nightmare exchange between Kay and his goalkeeper saw the defender roll into his own net, all but destroying Dons’ chances of retrieving anything from the game.
Ian McLoughlin shrugged off his late injury at Sheffield United to start for the fifth straight game in the absence of David Martin. One man who couldn’t recover from his injury on Saturday was Daniel Powell who missed out entirely. Alan Smith returned to the bench as Izale McLeod took over up front, with Ryan Lowe in the hole behind him.
Dons comfortably looked the better of the two teams in the early exchanges, with Shrewsbury hardly touching the ball. Adam Chicksen came close to opening the scoring with an audacious volley from 25 yards after skipping the wrong way around his marker, but the strike dipped a bit too late and landed on the roof of the net.
But it was the visitors who took a surprise lead after 15 minutes. Easily shrugging aside Shaun Williams, Tom Eaves had all the time in the world to pick his spot from the edge of the box, neatly tucking the ball inside McLoughlin’s right-hand post.
And incredibly, they doubled their lead three minutes later with Eaves again - this time a mazing run across the face of goal before bending it left footed into the opposite corner, with McLoughlin again helpless.
Without doing much wrong, Dons found themselves two goals down, and left facing a mountain. For the Shrews though, it freed them up a bit and they surged forward and looked full of confidence, keen to kill off the game before the break.
Karl Robinson called for Stephen Gleeson to prepare himself to come off the bench as the crowd began to get on Dons’ backs for not going all out in attack. But his preparations were short lived Dons pulled one back. Ryan Lowe was first to Dean Bowditch’s low near-post corner, nodding it in with relative ease despite the defender on the line.
Double-scoring Eaves was lucky to stay on the pitch when, two minutes after Lowe’s strike, he appeared to elbow Lewington in the face, only getting a booking to his name.
Shrewsbury looked very dangerous on the counter, and skipper Matt Richards forced a fine stop from McLoughlin when he got in behind Doumbe
Gleeson did eventually make it on the pitch in the first half, replacing Doumbe as Dons switched to playing three at the back. Unlike in recent weeks, the change didn’t appear to be due to injury as Doumbe took up a seat on the bench.
The half drew to a close with Dons all over their opponents. Lowe’s free kick from the edge of the box was blocked by the wall, while Gleeson too had an effort in stoppage time bravely blocked as he hammered one goalwards from the penalty stop, but it wasn’t enough to overturn the deficit at half time.
But it took just a minute of the second half for Dons to get level, and it was Lowe once again who rose highest at the far post to nod in Williams’ free kick from the right flank.
Dons almost took the lead three minutes later when Bowditch burst down the right and sent in a low cross which Lowe couldn’t connect with. But McLeod reacted quickest and flashed his right boot at it, but it was agonisingly wide of the mark, with Chris Weale rooted to the spot. It turned out to be McLeod’s last involvement as he was replaced by Patrick Bamford.
Shrewsbury, try as the might, couldn’t get out of their half. Dons were in complete control of the game, with both Gleeson and Bowditch looking threatening every time they got the ball - the latter rattling the frame of the goal when his volley dipped onto the support post behind the net on the hour mark.
Incredibly though, Shrewsbury found themselves back in front after 68 minutes when a mix-up between McLoughlin and Kay saw the defender roll the ball into an empty net. No-one seemed more surprised than the Shrewsbury fans huddled behind the goal, getting their first glimpse of the ball for almost 20 minutes.
And it could have much worse for Dons five minutes later when Eaves shrugged off Lewington and fired across McLoughlin, but just wide of the target.
But Dons continued to pile forward, camping out in the attacking third. Bamford looked clever on the ball but was guilty of trying too much individually, keen to make an impression when the pass would have been the better option.
Substitute Alan Smith forced a wonderful stop from Weale in stoppage time but it wasn’t enough.
On a night when so many of Dons’ play-off rivals lost out too, Dons missed out on their chance to capitalise and looked bitterly disappointed at the full-time whistle, knowing they’d missed a huge opportunity to haul themselves right back into contention. As it is, they slipped to 13th in League 1.
Referee: David Phillips
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Lewington, Doumbe (Gleeson 37), Kay, Williams, Potter, Lines (Smith 82), Bowditch, Chicksen, Lowe, McLeod (Bamford 52)
Subs not used: Otsemobor, Flanagan, Baldock
Shrewsbury Town: Weale, Jacobson, Summerfield, Jones, Richards, Morgan (Purdie 76), Taylor (Parry 87), McAllister, Mambo, Eaves (Porter 90), Gayle
Subs not used: Anyon, McGinn, Goldson, Porter, Rodgers
Booked: Jacobson, Eaves