It was a tale of two Gallaghers for MK Dons as they lost 1-0 to Preston North End at stadium:mk on Saturday.
Dons striker Sam Gallagher wasted two glorious opportunities early in each half, while namesake Paul for Preston was deadly, netting the only goal of the game in the 28th minute after beautifully side-stepping Kyle McFadzean’s challenge.
The centre back was Dons’ driving force in the second half in particular, but came across a dominant Jordan Pickford in the Preston net, helping restrict the home side to mere half chances.
Karl Robinson made nine changes to the team which started on Tuesday night against Leyton Orient. Dean Lewington and Carl Baker were the only survivors. It meant it was effectively the same team which started at Rotherham, with Baker coming in for Rob Hall, who missed out through injury.
There have been six draws in eight meetings between the two sides, but both sides squandered chances to take the lead in the opening five minutes. First, Preston couldn’t capitalise on a suicidal pass from David Martin, giving the ball straight to Will Keane on the edge of the box. Fortunately for Dons, Darren Potter was on hand to intercept Keane’s ball to Joe Garner, who was poised to shoot.
Two minutes later, Dons created a chance at the right end when Dean Bowditch twisted and turned to allow Sam Gallagher some space to shoot. Incredibly though, he fired wide with just Jordan Pickford to beat.
As the tempo settled, so did Dons, finding their rhythm. As usual, Potter was a part of everything the home side created, but was also proving useful as the midfield enforcer, throwing himself into some meaty challenges. Dean Bowditch too was having a good time of things on the left flank.
And it was his cross which almost brought out the opener when he picked out Carl Baker in the centre, but his header was excellently kept out by Jordan Pickford.
Preston were the last time to inflict defeat on Dons back in March when they ran out of stadium:mk 2-0 winners, and they were the first on the scoresheet again after 27 minutes. With Dons defending deep, Paul Gallagher was rolled in beyond the penalty spot and brilliantly side-stepping Kyle McFadzean’s challenge, was left with a simple finish past Martin to give the visitors the lead.
They were lucky not to be 2-0 down by the interval when Martin yelled for the ball, but didn’t make it leaving Tom Clarke all alone to head in at the far post. But referee Andrew Madley sparred Martin’s blushes, feeling the keeper had been infringed in the process.
Preston looked content to absorb Dons’ pressure in the second half as the home side did the brunt of the work. But despite having the majority of the ball, it didn’t manifest into chances. Every ball send into the area seemed to be easy pickings for Pickford, who had total command of his penalty box.
In fact Dons’ best chance came right at the beginning of the half but was foiled by Sam Gallagher’s poor touch as he broke in behind the Preston defensive line.
Even the introduction of pace and trickery didn’t help Dons in the creative department, with Dale Jennings and Cristian Benavente unable to spark the home side into life.
But they were given something of a chance when a moment of madness from substitute Jordan Hugill stepped on downed Kyle McFadzean on half way, right in front of the referee who immediately pulled for his red card, sending the Preston man back down the tunnel after barely three minutes on the pitch.
But despite the man advantage in the closing 10 minutes, Pickford remained untested as Preston book-ended Dons’ undefeated streak.
Referee: Andrew Madley
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Kay, McFadzean, Spence, Potter, Carruthers (Benavente 67), Bowditch (Jennings 77) Reeves, Baker (Church 77), Sam Gallagher
Subs not used :Cropper, Hodson, Walsh, Aguza
Preston: Pickford, Cunningham, Clarke, Wright, Humphrey (Woods 88), Keane (Hugill 79), Johnson, Paul Gallagher (Browne 77), Garner, Welsh, Huntington
Subs not used: Kirkland, Kilkenny, Woods, Davies, Brownhill
Booked: Cunningham, Paul Gallagher, Keane, Jennings, Pickford