DONS slipped into the bottom half of the League 1 on Saturday after a third defeat in a row, this going 3-1 down to Oldham.
Dubbed ‘the best team in the league’ by manager Karl Robinson earlier in the week, Dons weren’t even the best on the Boundary Park pitch, looking distinctly uninterested in midfield.
After an uneventful opening 20 minutes, Dean Lewington’s mistake allowed Lee Croft to pick out Lee Barnard in the centre to net a 22nd minute opener. Dons were back in it six minutes before half time when Jon Otsemobor picked out Daniel Powell over the top, breaking into the area and smashing past Dean Bouzanis to equalise against the run of play. But the sides weren’t level for long as Jean-Yves M’Voto was left unmarked to head in on the stoke of half time.
Chris Iwelumo reacted quickest to David Martin’s parry seven minutes after the restart to put Oldham 3-1 up, adding to Dons’ woes.
Gary MacKenzie returned to the heart of the defence after missing the back-to-back defeats at Yeovil and at home to Bournemouth last Saturday. With Ryan Lowe suspended, Alan Smith started up front, with Izale McLeod once against on the bench. And there was good news for Dons fans as Luke Chadwick was also named among the substitutes.
Fans of a midfield stalemate would’ve been in their element in the uneventful opening 20 minutes. Only a Shaun Williams free kick from the edge of the box was worthy of note, though it was straight at Oldham keeper Dean Bouzanis.
An individual error cost Dons the opener last week against Bournemouth, and it was a similar story to gift Oldham the first goal of the game too, this time with Dean Lewington not clearing his lines, allowing Lee Croft to slip in Lee Barnard to fire across David Martin and into the lead.
Jordan Obita could’ve doubled the lead a minute later when his strike almost caught Martin out at his near post, but the keeper recovered well to dive on the shot.
It was a physical battle in the centre of the park – Lewington and Smith looked in their elements, while the likes of Darren Potter and Chris Lines struggled to even get on the ball, restricted to loose first touches and toe-pokes to avoid a clattering.
With Dons barely threatening, it looked like another tough half time talk for Karl Robinson, but his job was made slightly easier when Jon Otsemobor launched a ball over the top to Daniel Powell, who beat the offside trap and smashed past Bouzanis to level things up six minutes before the interval.
But some atrocious marking, or more importantly the lack thereof, on Jean-Yves M’Voto gave the giant defender free range to powerfully head Jose Baxter’s free kick into the top corner – Martin stranded could only watch on as it sailed past him to put Oldham 2-1 up a minute before the break.
It really was a gift for Oldham, though they fully deserved to lead at half time, with Dons barely looking interested in the midfield. The central trio of Lines, Harley and Potter weren’t having any impact whatsoever, allowing James Tarkowski and Obita free reign to dictate the play.
Harley was pulled at the break to allow Chadwick his first appearance in nearly two months.
And he was the catalyst in bringing a spark back to the game. From his break forward, he earned a free kick which Lines saw tipped just over the bar. And from the corner, Bouzanis did brilliantly to keep out Smith’s effort on the spin. It created a counter, and Obita burst down the flank and into the area, but his strike was parried away by Martin.
Not fully cleared though, Obita once again was able to cross and Martin again parried, this time though into the path of Chris Iwelumo, who made no mistakes in hammering the ball into the roof of the net to make it 3-1 to Oldham.
Izale McLeod was quickly readied and put on in place of the ineffective Lines in a bid now to salvage something resembling pride from the affair.
But even that looked a far stretch when Iwelumo just missed out on another Obita cross six yards out as Oldham looked in the ascendency.
Dons meanwhile looked like they were going through the motions. There was very little urgency. McLeod blazed a fairly simple chance over the top and miscontrolled two more passes zipped into his direction as Dons struggled to create clear cut opportunities.
Shaun Williams had a header straight at Bouzanis, but that was about it in terms of opportunities to give the 185 travelling supporters something to cheer, even ironically as the visitors just weren’t at the races.
Oldham barely needed to attack in the closing stages, but withdrew Obita late in the day – the thorn in Dons’ side all afternoon.
The third consecutive defeat means Dons sit a lowly 13th in the table, now an ominous nine points off the play-off spots with a tough midweek game at Doncaster Rovers to come on Tuesday night.
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 4,094 (185)
Oldham Athletic: Bouzanis, Brown (Byrne 90), Grounds, Wesolowski, M’Voto, Tarkowski, Croft ( Furman, 68), Iwelumo, Obita (Taylor 87), Barnard, Baxter
Subs not used: Cisak, Furman, Murray, Millar, Winchester
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, Lewington, Williams, MacKenzie, Potter, Powell, Harley (Chadwick, 46), Lines (McLeod 55), Bowditch, Smith (Chicksen, 67)
Subs not used: Doumbe, Baldock, Flanagan