A poor opening 20 minutes cost MK Dons any chances of causing an upset as they lost 2-1 to Brighton on Saturday.
A sluggish Dons defence allowed Solly March to score after just four minutes when he rifled one in from the edge of the box, before they completely lost track of Jamie Murphy as he doubled the lead on 20 minutes.
A goal from nothing from Nicky Maynard gave Dons a lifeline three minutes later, but despite a great penalty shout for a foul on Samir Carruthers, Dons were never afforded another opportunity to get back on level terms.
The defeat sees Dons go into the international break 21st in the table.
Following Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Charlton Athletic, Karl Robinson made three changes to his side. Kyle McFadzean returned to the starting line-up after missing out through suspension, and Daniel Powell replaced Josh Murphy on the left-hand side. Dean Bowditch’s winner on Tuesday wasn’t enough to keep his place in the side though, with Carl Baker given a start.
Both Robinson and Samir Carruthers noted in the build-up to the game how important it would be to keep a clean sheet at the Amex, but after just five minutes, that was out of the window courtesy of a wonderful Solly March strike. Dons could only half clear Brighton’s corner, and hovering 25 yards out, the ball sat up perfectly for the 21-year-old to hit first time, leaving David Martin with no chance as it sailed into the net.
It was one-way traffic in the opening 20 minutes as Brighton showed just why they remain unbeaten so far this season. Stifling Dons in the middle of the park, their crisp passing was forcing the visitors to chase the game while they moved up the field with ease.
Looking good for their lead, Brighton should have doubled it on quarter of an hour though when Tomer Hemed’s late burst to the near post saw him beat McFadzean to the ball, but his glancing header was just wide of the mark.
It would only take another four minutes though and it was 2-0 as the Dons defence switched off. Sam Baldock was the key protagonist in the build-up, weaving his way across the box before seeing his shot blocked by McFadzean. But the loose ball bumbled through to Jamie Murphy waiting in the area, completely alone, and he converted the simple chance into the corner.
Scoring goals has been a problem for MK Dons all season long, but from nothing, Nicky Maynard managed to pull one back in the 23rd minute. A relatively straight-forward ball into him 25 yards out looked innocuous enough, but a deft touch and turn to lose Lewis Dunk saw the striker unleash a strike from the edge of the box, beating David Stockdale.
And it gave Dons a kick in the right direction as they finally began to spark into life. Getting the better of the conditions at last, Dons got the ball down and began to pass, causing frustration to the home side as they were now forced to chase.
But as the game began to balance, Brighton began to get back on top in the lead up to half time and probably should have been two goals up going in at the break, but for the upright keeping out Tomer Hemed’s strike.
Dons were left to lament yet another refereeing decision against them when Dunk slid straight through Carruthers in the box, upending the midfielder but incredibly going unpenalised, much to the disbelief of Robinson in the dugout.
The game itself though threatened to burst into life, but it never really happened. The slick surface was beginning to cut up and neither side were really on top of it. The home side shaded the chances, but Carruthers forced Stockdale into a low stop at his near post, and substitute Josh Murphy had another half-hearted penalty appeal waved away as Dons matched Brighton.
But without a clear cut chance to really test Stockdale, Brighton in the end looked comfortable to let the clock run down to take all three points.
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 23,661 (635)
Brighton: Stockdale, Saltor, Huenemeir, Dunk, Stephens, Kayal, Baldock (Zamora 56), Hemed (Crofts 71), Jamie Murphy (Manu 83), March, Rosenior
Subs not used: Maenpaa, Calderon, Goldson, Ince
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Spence, Kay, McFadzean, Potter, Poyet, Carruthers (Josh Murphy 71), Baker (Church 78) , Powell (Bowditch 45), Maynard
Subs not used: Cropper, Hodson, Gallagher, Hall
Booked: McFadzean, Zamora, Josh Murphy, March