REPORT: Oxford 3-1 MK Dons: No New Year heroics at the Kassam
MK Dons were brought back to earth with a thud on New Year's Day as they were beaten 3-1 by Oxford United.
Having beaten Peterborough with nine men just two days earlier, Oxford's clinical finishing put them well in control, despite an evenly fought contest at the Kassam Stadium.
Wes Thomas tapped Oxford in front after 15 minutes, but Dons were deservedly level nine minutes later when Alex Gilbey headed home Robbie Muirhead's corner. Gino van Kessel gave the home side the lead in first half stoppage time when Lee Nicholls failed to hold on to Jack Payne's strike, before Jon Obika out-paced Ethan Ebanks-Landell on the hour mark to wrap it up.
The result sees Dons drop back to 19th in League 1, picking up just three points over the festive period.
Robbie Neilson handed Robbie Muirhead his first league start since August 19th as he came into the side to face Oxford, but there was an eyebrow-raising omission from the starting line-up as Chuks Aneke was dropped to the bench. Dons were without suspended Joe Walsh and Osman Sow after their sendings off against Peterborough, meaning Ouss Cisse, who performed brilliantly at centre back on Saturday, set up in the defence again.
While Peterborough failed to make a breakthrough against the nine men of MK Dons, some silky footwork from Jon Obika undid the Dons defence after just 15 minutes, leading Wes Thomas with the simplest of finishes from inside the six yard box to give Oxford the lead. Until that point, Dons had looked fairly comfortable, without really troubling Simon Eastwood's goal.
But the goal certainly didn't impact on Dons' play as they upped the tempo in search of an equaliser. Peter Pawlett came close after a good one-two with Kieran Agard on the edge of the box, and Alex Gilbey too tested Eastwood from range to win his side a corner. And from that corner, the captain turned in Muirhead's set piece at the far post to level things up on 24 minutes.
This fixture in the Checkatrade Trophy was a thrilling 4-3 victory for Dons, but it was Oxford who should have retaken the lead on the half hour mark when Obika was left totally unmarked 15 yards out, but he saw his effort clatter the bar.
Dons though looked the more likely to take the lead, playing the better football towards the half time break, with Muirhead having a lot of joy on the left-hand side, but a pinpoint cross to Kieran Agard was headed well wide.
But they would go in behind at the break when Lee Nicholls spilled Jack Payne's strike, and Gino van Kessel was on hand to tap Oxford back in front.
The game continued to ebb and flow in the second half, but Thomas should have put the game to bed seven minutes after the restart when he got in behind Scott Golbourne, but fired straight at Nicholls.
With Dons failing to pack a significant punch up front, Chuks Aneke was introduced and almost made an immediate impact, playing in Gilbey who rounded Eastwood only to see his effort cleared away by the recovering John Mousinho.
Oxford though went straight up the other end and put the game beyond Dons' reach. After a brilliant game two days earlier, Ethan Ebanks-Landell simply didn't have the pace to stick with Obika as he raced clear, coolly slotting past Nicholls for Oxford's third.
Dons were almost given a lifeline back into the game when Canice Carroll deflected the ball up onto his own crossbar as the visitors crossed the ball deep, but it would be as close as they'd come to getting one back. Pawlett, Agard and Aneke all forced keeper Eastwood into low stops as Dons had more of the ball and terratory in the closing stages, while Oxford continued to look dangerous when afforded the chance to get forward.
Dons were offered a boost when Ricardinho was shown a straight red card for a nasty challenge on Conor McGrandles with 10 minutes to go, but it made little difference to the remainder of the game as Oxford comfortably saw the game out.
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Attendance: 7,628 (650)
Oxford: Eastwood, Martin, Ledson, Thomas (Mehmeti 62), Payne, Ruffels, Obika (Tiendalli 84), Ricardinho, Mousinho, Carroll, van Kessel (Napa 88)
Subs not used: Shearer, Williamson, Henry, Mowatt
MK Dons: Nicholls, Golbourne, Cisse, Ebanks-Landell, Williams, Upson (Thomas-Asante 85), Gilbey, McGrandles, Pawlett, Muirhead (Aneke 55), Agard (Nombe 80)
Subs not used: Sietsma, Wootton, Ariyibi, Seager
Booked: Williams, Muirhead, Ledson
Sent off: Ricardinho