Promotion hopes in tatters as Dons thumped by Crawley

League Two play-offs: Crawley Town 3-0 MK Dons

All of MK Dons’ play-off nightmares played out in front of them in the first leg of the semi-final against Crawley Town on Tuesday night as they slumped to a miserable 3-0 defeat.

Liam Kelly struck after just five minutes before Jay Williams added a second in first-half stoppage time as the hosts ran riot at the Broadfield Stadium, with Ronan Darcy’s deflected effort sailing in with 25 minutes to go to leave Dons with a mountain to climb at Stadium MK on Saturday night.

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After Monday's postponement, MK Dons finally got the opportunity to take to the Broadfield Stadium on Tuesday evening, and it was as strong a side that Mike Williamson could put out. Making one change from the side which drew 4-4 with Sutton on the final day of the regular season, Cameron Norman came in ahead of Kyran Lofthouse, while there was no room for Swindon's Player of the Year Dan Kemp.

While the league games saw Dons come out on top by a narrow aggregate of 3-2, Crawley had the better of both encounters, and their first-half performance put them in total control. While Max Dean rounded keeper Corey Addai inside the opening four minutes only to have his effort cleared off the line by a recovering Will Wright, the hosts would go straight up the other end and assert their early dominance by taking the lead.

Making light work of Norman on the right, Adam Campbell slid the ball neatly to Liam Kelly to pick out the bottom corner to give the host the lead, momentum and control of the tie.

Dons were off it in every department, slow to react and second to every loose ball, while Crawley were tenacious, quick and pounced on everything. Though they made mistakes to nearly let Dons in, particularly with the ambitious style keeper Addai takes on, the visitors were barely able to cause any issues.

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Michael Kelly twice needed to make important save to keep Crawley from further extending their lead, but when no-one tracked they run of Jay Williams in stoppage time, getting on the end of Will Wright's free-kick to turn home the Red Devils' second.

For a brief spell early in the second-half, Dons looked close to themselves again as they got the ball down, and looked to play in their way, but any chance of a comeback were shattered in cruel fashion on 65 minutes.

Barely on the pitch for five minutes, Ronan Darcy shaped to cross but his effort was deflected off Joe Tomlinson, and over Michael Kelly's dive to make it 3-0.

The third goal really knocked the stuffing out of Dons, and despite the best efforts of substitute Ellis Harrison, who held his own after coming on, a potential life-line was not forthcoming. Harrison sent an effort wide when he was put through on goal, while fellow substitute Kyran Lofthouse and Dean fired over the bar from the edge of the box.

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Crawley thought they had a fourth when Greek Klaidi Lolos headed against the bar and then fired the ball into the roof of the net only to be denied by the offside flag.

Referee: Ross Joyce

Attendance: 5,564 (675)

Crawley Town: Addai, Conroy, L Kelly, Maguire, Lolos, Orsi (Adeyemo 86), Forster (Gordon 60), J Kelly (Tsaroulla 79), J Williams, Campbell (Darcy 60), Wright

Subs not used: Sandford, Roles, Mkena, Adeyemo, Tsaroulla

MK Dons: M Kelly, Norman (Lofthouse 60), Tucker, O'Hora, Harvie, Tomlinson, Bate, Payne (MJ Williams 79), Gilbey (Tezgel 79), Wearne (Harrison 61), Dean

Subs not used: Marschall, Lewington, Robson

Booked: Tomlinson, Bate, Maguire, Harvie, Conroy