MK Dons’ return to League 1 was confirmed on Saturday with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Brentford.
Despite taking the lead in the sixth minute through Nicky Maynard, Dons capitulated as the Bees cruised to an easy win. Sergi Canos pulled Brentford level three minutes after Maynard’s opener, but the second half was a one-sided affair, with goals from Lasse Vibe, Ryan Woods and Jake Bidwell putting the nail in the coffin.
With Dons needing a win to avoid relegation for another week, Karl Robinson made five changes to the side which started on Tuesday in the 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. Having served his suspension, Cody Cropper was back between the posts, replacing teenager Charlie Burns, while George Baldock and Jake Forster-Caskey passed fitness tests and returned to the starting 11. Carl Baker and Nicky Maynard also returned, and the latter’s impact was almost immediate.
With five minutes played, Josh Murphy skipped past Maxime Colin with ease to put the ball on a plate for Maynard to slide in the opener.
The lead would last barely two minutes though. Having been inches below a cross earlier, Sergi Canos made up for it with an absolute wonder strike, standing up and then beating Baldock to cut inside, bending the ball high into the top corner, leaving Cropper with no chance.
It was a real end-to-end game in the opening half hour, with both sides having chances to take the lead. Dons almost scores a carbon copy of their goal, but keeper David Button was wise to it the second time around, throwing himself at into the path of Maynard’s sliding effort to deny Dons.
At the other end, questionable goalkeeping from Cropper nearly cost Dons twice: first when he dallied on the ball to allow Lasse Vibe the chance to block his clearance but couldn’t get a shot on the open goal; and second when he couldn’t contain Konstantin Kerschbaumer’s shot from 18 yards, though he had Joe Walsh to thank for sliding in ahead of Vibe to put the ball out for a corner. Fortunately for the American, Brentford weren’t able to capitalise.
As the half wore on, Dons struggled to get out of their own half, let alone create. Brentford, who have only lost to Dons twice in 10 meetings during the Robinson era, looked threatening but never really made their advantage count.
Robinson was forced into a double change at half time. Walsh was ill during the interval and couldn’t take any further part. Antony Kay came on to play alongside Kyle McFadean for the second half. Cody Cropper also picked up a shoulder injury during the first half and was replaced by Charlie Burns in goal.
But the teen’s first involvement was to pick the ball out of his net. Vibe beat Kay for pace to get in behind and coolly passed the ball into the corner of the net, out of Burns’ reach to fire Brentford ahead barely had the second half begun.
They had a great chance, two in fact, to get back on level pegging within three minutes of Vibe’s strike. Maynard was sent through one-on-one by a great Dean Lewington ball over the top, but under pressure from Yoann Barbet, had to take a touch, which brought out Button to make a solid block. The loose ball then fell to Williams on the edge of the box, but his attempt was blocked by the recovering Brentford defence.
Robinson’s final roll of the dice came 10 minutes after the restart as he replace Williams with Alex Revell. And he should have drawn Dons level within two minutes of coming on, but somehow failed to hit the target, once again Murphy the creator on the left-hand side.
With the lead, Brentford shut up shop, and with the ball, simply denied Dons any chance of getting back into the game. And the writing was on the wall with 12 minutes to go when Ryan Woods fired in Brentford’s third, which Burns appeared to dive past.
In the end, it turned out to be academic, with the five other clubs Dons needed to lose picking up points, sending Dons down anyway. So when Jake Bidwell’s crossed free kick evaded everyone and beat Burns at the far post, it was of little meaning.
Referee: Andy Woolmer
MK Dons: Cropper (Burns 46), Lewington, McFadzean, Walsh (Kay 46), Baldock, Potter, Forster-Caskey, Murphy, Williams (Revell 55), Baker, Maynard
Subs not used: Spence, Long, Powell, Bowditch
Brentford: Button, Colin (Clarke 59), Bidwell, Dean, McCormack, Woods, Kerschbaumer, Vibe (Djuricin 59), Yennaris, Barbet, Canos (Gogia 76)
Subs not used: Bonham, Swift, O’Connell, Cole