A cracker from Jacques Maghoma brought down the curtain on 2015 with a defeat for MK Dons as they lost 1-0 to Birmingham City.
In a game void of many clear cut chances, Maghoma’s spectacular effort, which saw him sell a dummy to the entire Dons defence before firing into the roof of the net after 63 minutes. City twice struck the woodwork too, once at 0-0 and then deep into stoppage time, while Dons had little to call a chance.
Results around them fell favourably though, meaning Dons go into the New Year still above the relegation zone.
Despite taking all three points against Cardiff City on Boxing Day, Dons boss Karl Robinson made sweeping changes, making six alterations to the side which started at stadium:mk. Goal scorers Josh Murphy and Nicky Maynard dropped to the substitutes bench, as did Antony Kay, Ben Reeves and Rob Hall. Darren Potter was also rested and was left out of the squad. It meant Sam Gallagher was handed his first start since September, and Joe Walsh since August, while Diego Poyet returned to the starting line-up after missing out in the last two.
The first half hour flew by without either side really gaining the ascendency. While Birmingham edged the chances, with both Jon Toral and Jacques Maghoma keeping David Martin on his toes, Dons certainly looked a match for the Blues. Daniel Powell was proving as tricky to mark as ever, skipping inside Paul Caddis to make Tomasz Kuszczak earn his money, while Andy Robinson sparred his blushes when he nearly parried another Powell strike into the path of the on-rushing Gallagher.
Powell’s involvement though would be brief. Picking up an early knock, he lasted just 31 minutes before hobbling back to the treatment room, replaced by Murphy.
Dons though were lucky to avoid giving away a penalty 36 minutes in when Viv Solomon’s cross struck the arm of skipper Dean Lewington. Despite huge protests from the home side, both referee and his assistant were unmoved.
Having spent most of his MK Dons career in the treatment room, Joe Walsh looked very much at home at the heart of the defence. Unflustered and composed, the Welshman showed no signs of ring-rust and was alert to mop up any potential threats coming his way.
But he couldn’t do much when Clayton Donaldson was able to bring down Toral’s ball into the mix on 56 minutes, and cutting back to lose McFadzean, was afforded a free shot on goal from eight yards. Incredibly though, he crashed his strike against the crossbar when scoring looked easier.
Carruthers too was having another excellent afternoon as the midfield enforcer. While Dons’ former incumbent of that role Stephen Gleeson was having an equally good game for Birmingham, Carruthers was covering every blade and key in kick-starting Dons’ attacks, while his tackling helped break down a lot of danger in the centre.
With the game flowing brilliantly and suddenly full of passion, it was only a matter of time before there was a goal in it, and it came on 63 minutes for the home side. Maghoma, having earlier had a sight of goal only to be beaten to it by McFadzean made no mistakes the second time around when he performed not one but two cut-backs, sending six Dons players the wrong way before unleashing a fierce strike into the roof of the net.
On the balance of it, Birmingham just about deserved the lead, especially given Dons’ inability to carve a chance in front of goal. As ever, Murphy was their liveliest outlet on the left flank, but was left with little in the way of support. Nicky Maynard had replaced Gallagher, who did well with what scant opportunities he was afforded, but ultimately he was provided with just as much, and that was not a lot.
Birmingham could have put a bow on it in stoppage time when Demarai Gray thumped the upright after Lewington failed to deal with Donaldson effectively.
By the time the full time whistle sounded, Dons remained 20th in the table as those around them also dropped points.
Referee: Andy Davies
Attendance: 19,714 (980)
Birmingham City: Kuszczak, Grounds, Robinson, Kieftenbeld, Gleeson, Donaldson, Solomon-Otabor (Gray 80), Maghowa, Toral (Davis 84), Morrison, Caddis
Subs not used: Legzdinis, Vaughan, Shinnie, Spector, Davis, Halford
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Spence, Walsh (Reeves 76), McFadzean, Poyet, Carruthers, Powell (Murphy 32), Bowditch, Baker, Gallagher (Maynard 62)
Subs not used: Cropper, Hodson, Kay, Hall
Booked: Carruthers, Robinson, Baker, Maynard, Murphy