Late drama elsewhere keeps Dons automatic chances alive despite poor defeat at Colchester
Two goals within two minutes of each half saw MK Dons brushed aside with ease by play-off chasing Colchester, but events elsewhere late in the day ensure their automatic promotion chances are still in their hands.
Sammie Szmodics lashed home the opener after just 90 seconds before he turned provider for Frankie Kent two minutes into the second period at the JobServe Community Stadium, in a game where Dons barely looked at the races.
With Tranmere and Bury's game postponed, due to be played on Tuesday, Mansfield conceded late to lose 2-1 to Stevenage, while late goals between Crewe and Forest Green saw them win 4-3 to rule Rovers out of the running on the final day.
For a third successive game, Paul Tisdale named the same starting line-up to take on Colchester. George Williams was once again named amongst the substitutes, with surprise inclusion for Joe Walsh, who had overcome an arm injury to be on the bench.
Knowing two wins would secure automatic promotion, Dons made their lives so much harder inside 90 seconds when Sammie Szmodics was left lurking on the edge of the box at a corner, and he lashed home to give Colchester the lead.
The following half hour was poor from Tisdale's side though, and they barely registered a shot on goal against an inexperienced keeper in Ethan Ross. Loose play in midfield and nervous defending, in particular from Callum Brittain, left them exposed all too often, and if Frank Nouble had a stronger left foot, should have doubled the advantage.
But despite barely causing a threat, Dons should have been level on the half hour mark when David Wheeler, who had scored two-in-two over Easter, rattled the crossbar when he was picked out from Conor McGrandles' low ball into the six yard box.
As poor as Dons were though, they were lucky to be only the single goal behind heading in at half time when Lee Nicholls did well to deny Courtney Senior after he was gifted the ball by Dean Lewington on the halfway line.
Having made a dreadful start to the game, the second half was equally as poor for Tisdale's side as they effectively waved goodbye to their automatic promotion chances by falling 2-0 down within two minutes of the restart. Szmodics was at the heart of it once again, bursting to the byline as the Dons defence froze, and he was able to pick out Frankie Kent to lash home from 15 yards.
Bringing on Chuks Aneke at the interval did little to alter proceedings, though George Williams and Stephen Walker's introductions did give them more of an attacking presence for the final 20 minutes. But it would be Lee Nicholls once again keeping Dons in it as, in almost a carbon copy as the first half, Lewington gifted Senior the ball on half way, allowing the midfielder to break but despite having Szmodics in support, opted to go it alone but could not beat the keeper.
With 12 minutes remaining, Dons thought they had pulled one back when Aneke bent one around Ross' dive, only to see it thud the post into the path of Agard, but the flag ruled out what would have been his 22nd of the season.
While the game played out with little drama, all eyes were on results elsewhere to keep Dons in the hunt, with their fate placed back in their hands at the death.
Referee: Antony Coggins
Attendance: 5,000 (1,007)
Colchester United: Ross, Jackson, Lapslie, Kent, Senior (Stevenson 79), Szmodics, Dickenson, Eastman, Saunders, Eisa (Mandron 73), Nouble (Norris 90)
Subs not used: Vose, Wright, Kensdale, Clampin
MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington, Martin, Houghton, Brittain (Williams 59), McGrandles, Cisse, Harley (Aneke 46), Hesketh, Wheeler (Walker 67), Agard
Subs not used: Moore, Walsh, Watson, D'Ath