MK Dons slipped further into the relegation mire after losing to fellow League 1 strugglers Walsall 1-0 on Saturday.
After a dreadful first period, the game showed brief signs of life in the second, buoyed by substitutions for both sides but it would be debutant Julien Ngoy who would make the biggest impact, scoring the only goal of the game for the Saddlers, seeing Dons drop to 22nd in the table.
Dan Micciche, still seeking his first win since taking over as manager, introduced new loan signing Elliott Ward into the starting line-up at centre back after arriving from Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday as one of two changes to the Dons team from last Saturday. The other saw Ike Ugbo drop to the bench in favour of Conor McGrandles, returning after two games on the bench.
Micciche's bid to return to the 'MK Way' of passing football got off to a shaky start to put it lightly. Playing the ball across the wet, bobbling surface wasn't ideal but the biggest problem came with poorly played passes from the visitors, often gifting possession to Walsall often in dangerous positions. Erhun Oztumer was the main beneficiary for the Saddlers as he played a high line, and was unlucky not to poke his side ahead when a Dons pass once again went awry, but Ward was on hand to get a vital block in.
Walsall were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty though when Alex Gilbey appeared to bring down Saddlers skipper Adam Chambers around 12 yards out, but referee Chris Sarginson wasn't moved.
The opening half highlighted exactly why both sides find themselves battling at the wrong end of the table. For as bad as Dons' passing was, Walsall's ability to capitalise or force Lee Nicholls into meaningful saves was equally as drastic.
With roles reversed, Dons barely showed any attacking prowess, more often than not losing the ball in wide areas before attempting to find the hapless Kieran Agard. George Williams though appeared to have the edge over Joe Edwards on the Dons right, but his overlapping was seldom capitalised on.
While it looked as though the second period would follow a similar track, the introduction of Robbie Muirhead for the injured Osman Sow breathed new life into Dons. Agard twice came close to opening the scoring, while the Scot himself, having scored a wonderful goal in this fixture last season, also fizzed one just wide of the mark.
But at the other end, Amadou Bakayoko will still be wondering how he managed to put the ball over from just six yards as Dons' shaky defence continued to cause concern, unable to clear the high ball into the box.
While Muirhead's introduction gave Dons a new attacking threat, so did a double swap for the home side. Justin Shaibu and Julien Ngoy were brought on for their debuts for Walsall, and it was the latter who fired them into the lead with 21 minutes to go with a marvellous individual effort. Cutting in from the left, he evaded two tackles to fire low at the near post, beating Nicholls' dive.
The goal zapped all previous signs of life from the visitors. Now defending back in numbers, Walsall were able to smother Dons in the attacking third. Bringing on Ike Ugbo and Josh Tymon did little to help matters for the visitors create anything to trouble keeper Liam Roberts as the home side comfortably held out.
Referee: Chris Sarginson
Attendance: 4,009 (436)
Walsall: Roberts, Edwards, Leahy, Dobson, Guthrie, Chambers, Oztumer (Ngoy 66), Morris, Kinsella, Bakayoko (Shaibu 66), Fitzwater
Subs not used: Gillespie, Cuvelier, Flanagan, Roberts, Kouhyar
MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington, Ward, Wootton, Williams, Gilbey, Upson, McGrandles (Ugbo 73), Tavernier (Tymon 82), Sow (Muirhead 51), Agard
Subs not used: Sietsma, Cisse, Ebanks-Landell, Brittain