MK DONS’ poor disciplinary record continued at the County Ground as Karl Robinson’s men were once again reduced to 10 men on their way to a 1-0 defeat to Swindon.
In a first half dominated by the home side, Dons were holding on at 0-0. But things were made that much harder when Dean Lewington was shown the club’s fourth straight red card in as many games, elbowing Robins midfielder Simon Ferry as he tried to hold up the taking of a free kick five minutes before the break.
Things went from bad to worse for Dons when Matt Ritchie’s cross evaded the defence and snuck in at the far post on the stroke of half time.
The second half was a stroll in the park for Paolo Di Canio’s men, hardly troubled by the visitors throughout. Andy Williams hit the bar late on for Swindon as walked out comfortable 1-0 winners.
After the drama in Bournemouth on Tuesday night, it was a return to the favoured 4-5-1 formation for Karl Robinson’s men, with Ryan Lowe leading the line. Charlie MacDonald dropped to the bench as Luke Chadwick took up the central midfield role alongside Darren Potter.
The home started much quicker than their opponents, and should have taken the lead on the 10 minute league but for some more heroic defending, reminiscent of Tuesday night.
Matt Ritchie’s free-kick from the right dropped to James Collins in the six-yard box, but his initial shot was bravely blocked by Gary MacKenzie before his follow-up effort was saved at point blank range by David Martin.
And the keeper needed to be at his best again six minutes later when Collins again had a shot blocked by MacKenzie, but the rebound fell to Raffaele De Vita on the left flank, who rifled a low, hard shot, which Martin did well do get down to.
He came to Dons’ rescue once again after 22 minutes when Collins once more got ahead of his man to put another head on goal. But Martin again got the better of the effort, acrobatically tipping the ball over the bar as Swindon continued to dominate.
Dons struggled to get the ball for any real stretch of time, let alone to build up a decent move to make Robins keeper Wes Foderingham work for his wages.
Whatever Dons tried, in the first half, it just wasn’t coming off. Lowe was left isolated and made to chanse long balls in behind the Swindon defence, while Potter’s radar wasn’t quite up to its usual standards as he misjudged short balls, just generally looking off colour.
Robinson said earlier in the week that Dons didn’t have a disciplinary problem, despite seeing three red cards in three games. But he’d have to answer questions again in the post-match interviews when Dean Lewington appeared to throw an elbow in Simon Ferry’s face five minutes from the break as the Dons skipper tried to delay Swindon taking a free-kick. After consulting with his linesman, referee David Phillips no choice but to show him a straight red card – the fourth in as many games.
With numbers light in defence, Shaun Williams returned from injury to replace Jay O’Shea and fill in at centre back.
Things went from bad to worse for Dons on the stroke of half time as Matt Ritchie’s dangerous cross evaded everyone, including Martin, and swerved into the far post, though striker partner James Collins claimed to get a touch.
Dons were out early in the second half, knowing their job would be even harder than against Bournemouth, despite the parameters being almost identical.
Town weren’t as dominant in the second period, certainly not in terms of pressure anyway. They did, however, keep possession nicely, and make the 10 men of Dons chase the ball for long periods.
Ritchie nearly added his name to the score sheet again 10 minutes into the half when he chased the ball down to Martin, and blocked the clearance. But fortunately for Dons, the deflection went up and over the bar.
Swindon, knowing that the three points were effectively safe as long as Dons didn’t have the ball, proceeded to play an elegant passing game high up the pitch. While they didn’t pack the box as regularly as they did in the opening 45 minutes, they opted for a few long range efforts instead – none of which tested Martin.
Robinson threw caution to the wind with nothing to lose, replacing Adam Chicksen with Jabo Ibehre.
Andy Williams should have put the tie beyond doubt 10 minutes from time when he intercepted Dean Bowditch’s loose pass on half way and made off down the flank. Brushing past Shaun Williams, he squared up MacKenzie before jinking outside and fired in on goal, but saw his shot come back off the bar.
As the rain began to fall late in the day, Dons began to get a few sights of goal. Substitute Charlie MacDonald let fly from close range after a good break forward from Jon Otsemobor, while Dean Bowditch looked dangerous on the left flank, though his crosses failed to find a man in the box.
The result ultimately was nothing less than Swindon deserved, and will leave Robinson scratching his head as to what he can say to stop the glut of red cards his side have seen in the opening week of the season.
Referee: David Phillips
Attendance: 8,299 (497)
Swindon Town: Foderingham, McEveley, Flint, Devera, Ferry, Collins (Storey, 87), Ritchie, McCormack, Andy Williams, Miller, De Vita (Navarro, 73)
Subs not used: Bedwell, Rooney, Risser, Thompson, Miles Smith
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, Lewington, MacKenzie, Chicksen (Ibehre, 75), Potter, Chadwick, O’Shea (Shaun Williams 42), Powell, Bowditch, Lowe (MacDonald, 64)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, MacDonald, Alli, Spence
Sent off: Lewington