Just when things appear to be pointing in the right direction, something comes along to upset the apple cart. In MK Dons’ case, it’s defensive howlers.
Karl Robinson’s side have become synonymous with the ‘passing from the back’ style which has won them so many plaudits over the years.
Last season, a total of 22 clean sheets were testament to Dons defensive dominance over teams, but also their sheer quality against League 1 opposition.
But when faced with strikers who don’t need a second invitation to stick the knife in, it costs Dons points.
Kyle McFadzean and Antony Kay have both been guilty of fatal errors this season, gifting goals to the opposition when Dons have been struggling to find the back of the net at the right end.
Middlesbrough, Bristol City and most recently Huddersfield Town have all benefitted from Dons’ defensive gaffes, and certainly in the case of the latter two, those extra points could be vital come the end of the season.
It was going to take something special or something catastrophic to break the deadlock at the John Smith’s Stadium on Tuesday night, and given the quality on show in the first half, it was looking more and more likely that it’d be the second option.
Neither Dons nor Huddersfield resembled anything like a threat outside of the opening five minutes, in which both Ismael Miller and Nicky Maynard would have wanted to do better with their first sights of goal. In a messy, bitty, nasty first half, both sides were lucky to come in level - frankly both deserved to be trailing.
The second half appeared to be travelling in the same direction until McFadzean’s decision to play a blind pass across the face of goal to his centre-back playing partner, oblivious to the fact that Town striker Nahki Wells was lurking, not even with intent, just over his shoulder.
For Wells, struggling for goals up front for Chris Powell’s side, it was like Christmas had come early as he coolly sent David Martin the wrong way to give his side the lead.
While defensive ailments have left Dons with mountains to climb in games this season, they’re just as troubled going forward.
Scoring three against 10-man Blackburn Rovers on Saturday may have thrown a veil over the problem for a day or two but in Yorkshire, Dons looked fraught, void of ideas and struggling for opportunities in front of goal.
With Carl Baker’s touch evading him, Josh Murphy showing little of the spark he had against Rovers and Maynard chasing aimless balls lumped in his vague direction, there was nothing doing - Robinson’s decision to drop goal-scorers Simon Church and Ben Reeves appeared critical. But even their introductions along with Daniel Powell, couldn’t spark Dons into action.
While toothless up front, one positive note to take was the performance of Diego Poyet. The West Ham loanee once again showed his quality by covering every blade of defensive grass, making critical interceptions and halting Huddersfield’s early attempts at mounting attacks. The game was a messy affair, thanks in large part to Poyet’s innate ability to break up the play.
Town’s second, four minutes into time added on, came from another Dons mistake as Martin kicked it straight to Flo Bojoj, who slid in Jamie Paterson to wrap it up, but the miscued clearance was more down to the rush of stoppage time than a serious lapse in concentration.
With former Premier League sides QPR and Hull up next, Dons cannot afford to keep giving goals away and leaving themselves with huge obstacles to overcome in order to salavage a point.
And they certainly can’t afford to do it against their rivals at the wrong end of the table.