Dons’ play-off dreams were shattered on Tuesday night as a Mathias Pogba double gave Crewe all three points at Gresty Road, winning 2-1.
After a forgettable opening half hour, Patrick Bamford netted the first goal of his professional career glancing home Ryan Lowe’s cross. But that was about as much joy as Dons would have in the game. Mathias Pogba equalised five minute before the interval as he headed in Gregor Robertson’s cross before the game made a turn for the worse for Kay. After his own goal last week against Shrewsbury , Kay endured a nightmare final 10 minutes which not only saw him slip to allow Pogba to net the winner, but also pick up two bookings for his third dismissal of the season.
The costly defeat all but ends Dons’ slim chances of a play-off spot in May, now needing nothing short of a miracle to land a top six finish.
Karl Robinson only made one change to the side which beat Tranmere at stadium:mk on Saturday, with captain Dean Lewington missing out through injury. Jon Otsemobor took over at right back, but there were only four substitutes named on the Dons bench.
The game started at 100 mph, with chances at both ends in the opening 10 minutes. With less than 60 seconds gone, Ian McLoughlin was forced into a low stop from Ryan Colclough’s drive from the edge of the box. Two minutes later, the winger benefitted from Nathan Ellington’s dummy in the box but he took too long to bring the ball under control and get his shot away as he allowed Adam Chicksen in to intercept.
At the other end, Dean Bowditch fired just wide, while Ryan Lowe had a good shout for a penalty turned away after flicking the ball over keeper Steve Phillips, firing in on goal only to see his shot blocked by the arm of Mark Ellis.
The game until the half hour mark failed to deliver any excitement of note. Dons looked in control, though both keepers saw plenty of the ball as over-hit passes up field were bread and butter for the men between the sticks. Dons were passing nicely too, but came up against a red wall in the form of the Crewe back-line.
But that changed when Ryan Lowe, pulling into the right flank, put in a stellar cross for Patrick Bamford to glance into the opposite corner of the net, handing the visitors the lead. It should have been 2-0 two minutes later when a clever one-two with Lowe saw Bamford through again. This time, Davis got down to keep his shot out, Bowditch’s rebound effort was blocked by Harry Davis and Lowe blazed over the top.
The scare certainly kicked Crewe into gear as they turned on the pressure. Bowditch cleared an Ellis header off the line and Ellington forced McLoughlin into a terrific full-stretch stop from 25 yards. But from the resultant corner, Mathias Pogba climbed highest at the far post to head into the roof of the net five minutes before the break.
It could have been worse for Dons in stoppage time as Luke Murphy was slipped in, but his ball across the face of goal evaded Pogba and Ellis inside a yard, as well as the Dons defence.
Five minutes after the break, Dons rattled the frame of the goal not once but twice as Chris Lines fired in from range, only to see his strike come off the upright. From the follow-up, Lowe’s shot on the turn came off the opposite post, not that it would’ve counted as the offside flag went up.
At the other end, Ellington wasted a good chance which incorporated Crewe’s whole attacking line as the ball came across the face of the penalty area, but the striker’s shot was scuffed safely into McLoughlin’s arms.
Much like in the first half, the second period passed without much incident. Crewe probably edged the possession stats but did little to threaten McLoughlin with. Dons meanwhile struggled to make an impact in the attacking third, aiming long balls over the top for Lowe and then his replacement Izale McLeod to chase.
Dons hit the frame again with 12 minutes to go, as Shaun Williams replicated his free-kick from Saturday, seeing it beat the keeper but not the crossbar. This time though, the rebound wasn’t a simple tap in, and McLeod couldn’t control the header.
Just like last Tuesday in the defeat to Shrewsbury, it looked like it would take a mistake to split the sides. And unfortunately for Antony Kay, it was his mistake once again which let in Crewe for the decisive goal. His slip at the vital moment allowed Pogba to break through on goal. His first shot was brilliantly saved by McLoughlin, but it rebounded kindly for the striker and he had the simple job of tapping in.
Things got worse for Kay too as he collected his second booking with five minutes to go, seeing the red card for the third time this season.
A clearly dejected Dons side trudged off the pitch knowing their chances of a play-off spot were now remote.
Referee: Tim Robinson
Attendance: 3,770 (143)
Crewe Alexandra: Phillips, Davis, Ellis, Murphy (Turton 59), Pogba, Leitch-Smith (Tootle 85), Mellor, Robertson, Osman, Colclough, Ellington (Aneke 75)
Subs not used: Martin, Dugdale, West
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Otsemobor (Smith 85), Williams, Kay, Chicksen, Gleeson, Potter, Lines, Bowditch (Baldock 64), Bamford, Lowe (McLeod 69)
Subs not used: Doumbe
Booked: Davis, Kay, Lines
Sent off: Kay