REPORT: MK Dons 0-1 Port Vale: Vale handed a victory
A calamitous handball from captain Dean Lewington gifted Port Vale victory at Stadium MK on Sunday as Dons winless run at home was extended to 11 games.
In almost comic fashion, the captain's flailing arms nearly caught a high ball into the penalty area, offering referee Sebastian Stockbridge no choice but to award a penalty. Though David Martin saved Alex Jones' spot kick, the Vale striker was able to convert at the second attempt, earning his side their first win on the road since April.
For Dons, the misery continued as they struck the woodwork twice but simply couldn't find the killer ball to unlock the Vale defence, dropping to 12th in League 1 in the process.
After making wholesale changes for the midweek Checkatrade Trophy against Peterborough, Karl Robinson made three changes to the side which beat Oldham a week before. Nicky Maynard, Ben Reeves and injured George Baldock missed out, with Ed Upson, Dean Bowditch and GB Williams coming in to start.
There was really only one team in it in the opening 20 minutes as Dons took the game by the scruff of it's neck. With a string of chances to open the scoring, Kieran Agard's ninth minute header forcing a diving stop from Jak Alnwick was the best of the bunch, though the Vale keeper as twice lucky to escape little errors which went unpunished.
With Vale continuing to provide little resistance, Dons remained in the ascendency and were the width of the post away from opening the scoring when Dean Lewington picked up the loose ball in the box, rattling the frame with his strike.
Lewington though would go from hero to villain in the space of two minutes as he handled an aerial ball into the box, giving away a penalty. Port Vale came into the game with the worst away record in League 1 and almost played to form when Alex Jones saw his penalty brilliantly saved by David Martin, only to gobble up the rebound, tapping into the unguarded net to spare his blushes and give Vale the lead 10 minutes before the break.
Despite trailing, it continued to be the same story into the second period. Vale seemed more than content to let Dons come at them, defending in number and flooding the box with bodies. Failing to find a way in, Robinson threw on Ben Reeves for Ed Upson on the hour before removing centre back Paul Downing for striker Nicky Maynard with 21 minutes to go.
Despite the change, it would be Vale who would come closest to scoring again though. Catching Dons on the counter after Reeves was caught out on half way, the visitors broke but with men over, Jones brought out a fine save from Martin.
But in a familiar story, Dons' huffing and puffing late in the day would amount to nothing. Ryan Colclough, who had his quietest game in a Dons shirt since signing, needed to do better from close range but fired straight at Alnwick, while Maynard pinged one straight at the keeper from 25 yards as options dried up in front of him.
It was almost poetic justice that Reeves' stoppage time free kick would leave Alnwick rooted to the spot, only to see the ball hit flush on the crossbar.
Ultimately, their fate was sealed though, and the search for a home win goes on, while Vale's dismal away record was vanquished.
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Attendance: 8,259 (292)
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Walsh, Downing (Maynard 69), GB Williams, Upson (Reeves 59), Potter, Colclough (Thomas-Asante 84), Bowditch, Carruthers, Agard
Subs not used: Nicholls, Hendry, Powell, Tshimanga
Port Vale: Alnwick, Purkiss, Streete, Knops, Foley, Paterson (Kiko 73), Smith, Jones (Pereira 90), Amoros, Grant, Hart (Turner 86)
Subs not used: Santos, Macintosh, Cicilia, Shalaj
Booked: Upson, Lewington, Potter, Knops, Alnwick, Foley, Grant, Kiko