Football proved to be a cruel mistress once again on Saturday as MK Dons slipped to their fourth defeat in a row, going down 2-1 to Leeds United.
In a game they dominated from start to finish, two sucker punches against the run of play saw Dons trail 2-0 at the break, as Chris Wood scored from the penalty spot before Charlie Taylor doubled the lead shortly before half time.
Simon Church had the stadium:mk crowd believing there was still a chance for Dons to nick something, but a red card for Samir Carruthers 12 minutes from time all but ended their hopes of a comeback.
Karl Robinson made two changes to the side which lost 2-1 at Turf Moor against Burnley on Tuesday night. Josh Murphy returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Dean Bowditch, while Simon Church returned to the bench as Sam Gallagher took over the leading line.
After three defeats in a row, Dons started with a point to prove. On the front foot from the off, Leeds keeper Marco Silvestri was by far the busier in the opening 20 minutes as Dons flowed forwards with intent.
Josh Murphy was having a lot of joy on the left flank, and twice bent balls just around the far post after beating Scott Wotton on the edge of the penalty area. Sam Gallagher too looked keen to impress, and brought out a finger-tip save from Silvestri from just inside the box.
Rob Hall was enjoying equally as much time and space playing through the middle as Josh Murphy was out wide, but he too was guilty of missing the target with his two attempts inside the opening half hour.
But in almost predictable fashion, Dons would fall behind against the run of play. Chasing back, Carl Baker got his challenge all wrong on Charlie Taylor, bringing him down inside the box, leaving referee David Webb no choice but to point to the spot. Chris Wood sent David Martin the wrong way to give Leeds the lead.
It should have been 2-0 seven minutes later when Wood was left unmarked in the centre of the box, but he attempted an audacious chested effort to meet Sam Byram’s cross, only to see it go over.
Sam Gallagher hasn’t had much luck in a Dons shirt so far this season, and his confidence will have taken a severe blow when he missed an open goal four minutes before the break. Rob Hall, who had been excellent in the first half, forced a brilliant stop once again from Silvestri with his effort palmed onto the post and into Gallagher’s path. But rather than tap it home, the man on loan from Southampton lashed at it, sending it into the Leeds fans behind the goal.
And they were made to pay as once again, Leeds went up the other end and doubled the lead. Given half a yard, Taylor let rip from the left-hand corner of the box, sending the ball clean past Martin’s out-stretched hand into the side of the net to give the Yorkshire side a comfortable cushion going in at the break.
Try as they might though, nothing was going Dons way in the second half either. Silvestri made another incredible save to keep out Diego Poyet’s dipping strike from the edge of the area, and Josh Murphy nearly rounded off a brilliant team-move but saw his strike come back off the upright.
With Robinson rolling the dice, bringing on Ben Reeves, Simon Church and Dean Bowditch, the gamble paid off with 18 minutes to go. Murphy, who looked more and more dangerous as the game wore on, burst past Wootton and into the box, sending a lot ball across the face for Church to roll in and make things interesting.
But then another nail was hammered into the MK Dons coffin as they were reduced to 10 men. Samir Carruthers, who until then had been excellent in running the midfield engine room, launched into a tackle with Stuart Dallas, missing the ball but cleaning out the Leeds man. After a chat with his assistant, referee Webb dished out the red card, leaving Dons a man light with 12 minutes to go.
The disadvantage didn’t seem to phase the home side though, with Reeves forcing another top stop from Silvestri, diving low to his right to keep out the Northern Ireland international’s free kick.
Dons threw everything at Leeds in the closing stages as they desperately sought an equaliser, but try as they might, it didn’t come. Antony Kay had a header cleared off the line deep into stoppage time, and with Martin upfield, only the sensational Poyet prevented Leeds from putting the result to bed by blocking Cook’s shot at the death.
Referee: David Webb
MK Dons:Martin; Spence (Bowditch 72), McFadzean, Kay, Lewington (c); Poyet, Carruthers; Baker, Hall (Reeves 58), Murphy; Gallagher (Church 58)
Subs not used: Burns, Hodson, Aguza, Powell
Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton, Cooper, Bamba, Taylor, Murphy, Cook, Mowatt (Adeyemi 77), Byram (Antenucci 83), Dallas (Bellusci 90), Wood
Subs not used: Turnbull, Berardi, Bellusci, Phillips, Botaka
Booked: Cooper, Lewington
Sent off: Carruthers