Dire Dons slip four points from safety with defeat at Port Vale
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The scrap to avoid relegation was made significantly harder for MK Dons on Saturday after yet another poor display saw them beaten 1-0 by Port Vale at Vale Park.
Aaron Donnelly’s 23rd minute strike was enough to separate the sides, but Mark Jackson’s side, having snatched a late point against Lincoln City in the week, turned in a dismal display once again to leave Dons four points from safety.
The big team news came before most had left Milton Keynes on Saturday morning, with the FA banning Jonathan Leko for three games after an off-the-ball incident during the 1-1 draw with Lincoln City in the week. Along with injury to Josh McEachran, Mark Jackson had to change formation to a back three, with Ethan Robson dropping to the bench as Henry Lawrence, Bradley Johnson and Dawson Devoy came into the side.
As bad as Dons were in the first-half at Sincil Bank on Tuesday, they found a way of being somehow even worse in the opening 45 minutes against Port Vale. On the back foot from the opening whistle, Dons looked distinctly second-best all over the park. Unable to get the ball under control for any meaningful period, they gifted authority to the home side who ran the show at their own pace.
Though there weren't really many chances of which to speak, it was little surprise that Vale took the lead on 23 minutes when Dons half-cleared a free-kick which fell into the path of defender Aaron Donnelly to bend into the bottom corner.
The scrappy affair had a bit of needle to it, with Ellis Harrison and Bradley Johnson trading blows before Zak Jules appeared lucky to avoid punishment when he seemed to raise his elbow to Nathan Smith, sending the Vale man to the deck.
Nothing seemed to stick for the visitors going forward, with Sullay Kaikai and Mo Eisa barely touching the ball meaningfully, and keeper Aidan Stone comfortably untested.
Any of the players could have made way at the interval for Will Grigg, but Henry Lawrence was the man who made way as Dons reverted back to a more familiar 4-3-3, but while it saw them get on the ball more often in the second-half, it didn't bring about much of a change in fortunes.
The travelling 314 fans were made to wait until the 54th minute to see a shot for their side, and it was a tame one wide from Daniel Harvie from the edge of the box - about as good as it got all afternoon.
Just as he did in the week, Jamie Cumming spared Dons' blushes further as he turned Harrison's strike onto the post on the hour-mark, and then throwing his right-leg at a Dave Worrall strike through a crowd of players to keep the score at one.
Despite the introductions of Max Dean and Nathan Holland to try and give more offensive bite, they only carved half-chances, with Johnson heading over the best they could muster.
Referee: Darren Handley
Attendance: 6,696 (314)
Port Vale: Stone, Donnelly, Smith, Warrall, Garrity (Conlon 69), Benning, Ojo (Wilson 76), Forrester, Taylor, Harrison (Proctor 76), Pett
Subs not used: Stevens, Holden, Agyakwa, Politic
MK Dons: Cumming, Tucker, Jules, Watson, Lawrence (Grigg 46), Harvie, Johnson (Holland 76), Maghoma, Devoy, Kaikai, Eisa (Dean 63)
Subs not used: Ravizzoli, Smith, Robson, Grant
Booked: Harrison, Jules, Tucker, Ojo, Harvie, Wilson