Dons slip out of the top three after Port Vale draw

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Kieran Agard missed a penalty as MK Dons dropped out of the automatic promotion places again on Monday, drawing 1-1 with Port Vale.

Agard had a hand in winning the penalty on 37 minutes when Mitch Clark was adjudged to have had a high boot, but the spot kick was well saved by Scott Brown, who did brilliantly to deny the striker his 22nd of the season.

A slow start to the second half saw Tom Conlon thrash Vale into the lead, but the lead would last just four minutes as David Wheeler tapped home Jakes Hesketh's cross. Chuks Aneke thumped the outside of the post late in the day, but a win for Bury saw Dons drop down to fourth in the table, despite Oldham's win over Mansfield.

Having done their automatic promotion chances no harm with a 2-1 win over Notts County on Good Friday, Dons remained unchanged for the visit of Port Vale as Paul Tisdale opted to keep goal-scorer Chuks Aneke on the subs bench.

Just like at Meadow Lane though, it was a slow and patient build up in the opening half an hour. While Dons had the lion-share of possession, they barely threatened Scott Brown's goal directly, though he was the keeper under more pressure. He needed to be on his toes to deny a good Ryan Harley strike from 18 yards, while Jake Hesketh's effort from a similar range had most of it's sting taken out of it via a block from Vale skipper Leon Legge.

In perhaps one of the strangest refereeing decisions of the season, Dons were awarded a penalty seven minutes before half time when Mitch Clark went to overhead kick his clearance, but with Kieran Agard in close proximity, was deemed to have a high foot and referee Alan Young pointed to the spot. While it was a dubious award at best, Agard's penalty was poor and saved by Brown, who then did brilliantly to deny the Dons forward at the second attempt.

Perhaps still dwelling on the miss, Dons came out of the box slowly in the second half and were made to pay within three minutes of the restart when Tom Conlon lashed home from the corner of the six yard box to give the visitors the lead.

The lead lasted just four minutes though. Picked out by Conor McGrandles' ball down the flank, Jake Hesketh teed up David Wheeler to tap home from inside the six yard box for his third Dons goal, and his second over Easter.

Chuks Aneke was introduced to the action five minutes later, taking over from Agard, as Dons looked turn the screw with results around them falling their way. Wheeler's movement was a thorn in Vale's side all afternoon, and he almost got on the end of another Hesketh ball into the mix, while at the other end, Cristian Montano fired harmlessly wide from 20 yards in a rare venture forwards.

With George Williams and Robbie Simpson also added to the action, Dons' ventures forward became too one dimensional, pumping long balls towards the big targets now in the line. Aneke though would thump the outside of the post when he was through on goal - the best of Dons' second half chances.

The result now means Dons cannot win promotion next Saturday at Colchester, and must await their fate until the final day of the season when they host Mansfield Town.

Referee: Alan Young

Attendance: 8,386 (334)

MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington, Martin, Houghton, Brittain, Cisse, Harley (Simpson 77), McGrandles, Hesketh (Williams 77), Wheeler, Agard (Aneke 57)

Subs not used: Moore, Watson, D'Ath, Walker

Port Vale: Brown, Montano (Vassell 90), Joyce, Legge, Worrall, Hannant (Kay 65), Crookes, Smith, Elliott (Pope 74), Conlon, Clark

Subs not used: Hornby, Rawlinson, Whitfield, Calveley