DONS were sent crashing back to earth with a disappointing 2-1 defeat away at Yeovil on Tuesday night.
After the jubilation of Loftus Road three days prior, a damp Huish Park and a return to League 1 action might not have been where the players’ minds were as Dons struggled to play the conditions.
In a scrappy encounter with not much to tell between the two sides, it was Yeovil who took the lead after 26 minutes through an 18-yard Patrick Madden strike. Dons simply didn’t make an impact in the final third, but Antony Kay wasn’t going to miss a free header from five yards to level things for Dons 10 minutes later.
But the two goalscorers clashed on the hour mark, with Yeovil’s man going down to an apparent headbutt from the Dons defender, who was given his marching orders.
Dons would have settled for a point for the road home, but Madden headed Yeovil back into the lead with 11 minutes to go, leaping highest to meet Matthew Dolan’s cross.
There was an early threat to the game at Huish Park, as referee Mick Russell expressed his concerns to the Yeovil pitch, which had taken a battering from the rain over night on Tuesday. Leaving it late, he called for a 7pm pitch inspection before deeming the surface playable. Fans weren’t let into the ground until the kick off had been confirmed, with many travelling Dons supporters left to wait it out on the coach behind the stand.
With the game on, Karl Robinson made two changes from the team that heroically beat QPR 4-2 on Saturday, with Alan Smith dropping to the bench and Gary MacKenzie not recovering from his hamstring strain he picked up at Loftus Road. Ryan Harley, who netted Dons’ third goal in their FA Cup fourth round victory playing in central midfield, and Izale McLeod joined Ryan Lowe up front.
From the off, the pitch looked heavy. Dons attempted to play along the ground but quickly realised that it was never going to work as the pace simply wasn’t there.
The home side were very much in the ascendency in the opening half, playing the conditions astutely.
David Martin made a save after just four minutes when Matthew Dolan struck from 18 yards. And they came close again when Patrick Madden found space 20 yards from goal, but saw his shot skirt just wide of the far post.
Dons on the other hand barely threatened in the opening half hour. An Izale McLeod shot sailing high and wide aside, there was little joy for the trio of forwards as the ball just held up on the sodden surface.
Yeovil did eventually take the lead after 25 minutes when Kevin Dawson’s cross evaded the Dons centre halves, finding Madden on the edge of the box to sweetly sweep home into the bottom corner.
Just before the goal, Lowe went down holding his eye after a stray hand caught him. Whether this was the reason for his substitution after 30 minutes wasn’t immediately apparent, but he was swapped out for Chris Lines.
Despite having control of the game, the home side will have been bitterly disappointed to concede when they did, 10 minutes before the half time break. Ryan Harley’s free kick was deflected out for a corner, and Shaun Williams picked out his centre back partner Antony Kay to head home unmarked from five yards out – he won’t have scored many easier than that and it dragged MK back into the game.
Tempers flared up as the teams approached the half – McLeod reacting angrily to Byron Webster’s overly-physical challenge on the touchline, with both going chest to chest. Referee Russell dealt with it well though, booking the pair after a cautious handshake.
Dons should have taken the lead a minute later too, when McLeod cut inside Webster and rolling in Harley, only for the on-loan Brighton man to think about it too much, and his dawdling cost him the chance.
After a brief downpour at half time, the teams emerged keen to get the game underway, and unusually it was the officials who were out last.
The rain didn’t help conditions under foot, and it made for a sloppy, gritty game in the centre of the park. The wind was holding up the ball when Dons tried to play over the top, and the torn-up pitch wasn’t making it much easier to play along the floor.
When it looked like a stalemate was on the cards, Kay appeared to headbutt Madden on halfway though went unnoticed by the referee. But when play eventually stopped, the linesman called over the man in the middle to deal with the altercation, which left Yeovil’s goalscorer stricken on the ground. After consulting with his assistant, Mick Russell brandished a straight red card for Kay, meaning Dons would have to survive the last half an hour a man light. Harley was sacrificed in the centre, with Mathias Doumbe slotting in at the back.
With the situation as it stood, Dons probably would have been happy to take a point home with them, but Yeovil had other ideas and retook the lead with 12 minutes remaining – that man Madden again hitting the back of the net, this time heading home Dolan’s cross from the left flank.
It wasn’t until the final few minutes though that Dons attempted to fight a comeback, but McLeod missed Doumbe’s neat ball across the face of goal.
The result sees Dons now slip to 10th in the table with the crucial home game against Bournemouth coming up on Saturday.
Referee: Mick Russell
Attendance: 3,152 (99)
Yeovil Town: Stech, Ayling, McAllister, Webster, Upson, Hayter (Appiah 60), Foley, Madden, Burn, Dolan (Edwards 60), Dawson
Subs not used: Hinds, Blizzard, Gavin Williams, Stewart, Young
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, Lewington, Shaun Williams, Kay, Harley (Doumbe 65), Potter, Chicksen, Bowditch, Lowe (Lines, 30), McLeod
Subs not used: Smith, Flanagan, Baldock, Alli, Ismail
Booked: Webster, McLeod, Appiah, Dawson
Sent off: Kay