MK Dons were condemned to their first defeat of the season as they slipped to a 1-0 loss to newly promoted Swindon Town.
Worse though for the Dons was the dismissal of skipper Dean Lewington, who became the fourth MK Dons player to be shown a straight red card in as many games, following an off-the-ball incident five minutes before the interval.
The ten men of the Dons were punished further still when Matt Richie’s long cross had enough power on it to breach the defence and send Town into the lead.
Ritchie’s goal, coming on the stroke of half-time, was enough to see Town maintain their impressive year-long unbeaten home record with a strong performance that showed why they are tipped to challenge for a second promotion in as many years.
The Dons made two changes to the side that earned a hard-fought point at Swindon Town in midweek with Luke Chadwick and Jay O’Shea in for Alan Smith and Charlie MacDonald.
Robinson, without suspended trio Smith, Stephen Gleeson and Antony Kay plus the injured Mathias Kouo-Doube, was only able to name six substitutes which included youth players Dele Alli and Mason Spence.
After a tense start between the two sides, Swindon created some good chances in the opening ten minutes as the talent of Matt Richie with dead ball deliveries quickly became evident. A free-kick from the right of the box found the feet of Aden Flint who, after shuffling to a better angle watched his close-range shot blocked by Gary MacKenzie.
At the second time of asking Flint fired another strong effort goal-bound, only to be denied by a superb block from David Martin.
Moments later a Ritchie corner caused another panic in the Dons’ box, but as Andy Williams met the inswinging delivery he blazed over.
The Dons’ spell of pressure came, with a number of corners in quick succession, but failed to test Town goalie Wes Foderingham.
Whereas Dons ‘keeper Martin had been kept busy in the early phases when Jamie Collins’ shot, deflected by MacKenzie, fell into the path of Raffaele De Vita who sent a low drive for Martin to smother.
Town were piling on the pressure and the Dons had goalie Martin to thank for keeping the scores level halfway through the first half when a spectacular one-handed tip over denied Collins.
The Town striker got a flick on from Ritchie’s short corner but Martin, showing tremendous athleticism, scurried backwards to twist his body and lift the ball over the bar.
After having their backs against the wall, the Dons were able to slow down the blistering pace of Swindon’s tempo. Yet, Di Canio’s men continued to dominate proceedings as they stopped the Dons venturing beyond the halfway line.
When the Dons were able to break free they tried to force their style of play onto Town and when Bowditch, having switched to the right flank, picked the ball, it was sprayed around before Adam Chicksen
turned in a looping delivery for Ryan Lowe, but Foderingham got the touch needed to take it over the bar.
Just as it looked as though the Dons could find their rhythm in the game, an off-the-ball incident between Lewington and Simon Ferry caught the attention of the officials. After consulting his assistant, referee David Phillips promptly showed the Dons captain his marching orders.
With a fourth straight red in as many games, the Dons’ disciplinary record does not make for good reading. Furthermore, it meant O’Shea was sacrificed to bring on Williams in the bid to re-strengthen the backline.
Needing to hang on until half-time, things went from bad to worse as Ritchie, a thorn in the Dons’ side, cut in on his foot to curl in a cross for Collins. Despite Collins failing to make contact, the cross looped into the back of the net to send Town into the lead and cap off a strong first half.
It was going to be a tough ask for the Dons to claw back the scoreline, but they will have taken confidence from doing just that with ten men at Bournemouth earlier in the week.
However, Swindon were hungry to double their lead as they looked to expose their visitors’ weaknesses. With fewer attacking options, the Dons were restricted by Town as to the chances they could create and were looking to make the most of any set-plays that came their way.
Town were looking to break at every opportunity, but their patience in the final third was a let down as Andy Williams turned his shot straight at Martin.
Dons’ Martin certainly earned his wages for the week as he was kept on his toes by Town, but once more the Robins’ final touch in front of goal hindered their chances of extending the lead as Raffaele De Vita’s shot from the left curled wide of the post.
With 15 minutes remaining on the clock, Robinson made the bold decision to go with three at the back as Chicksen made way for Jabo Ibehre. The new formation allowed the Dons the opportunity to get more men forward as gambled in hope of gaining a point.
It was a dangerous game as the Dons were opening themselves up to being hit on the counter-attack, which is exactly what happened when Andy Williams was released through to goal. However, on this occasion the woodwork came to the Dons’ rescue as the forward rattled his shot against the bar.
Town had late appeals for a penalty turned away when substitute Miles Storey was challenged in the box, while Potter had a long-range low effort spilt by the Robins goalie. In the end though, Ritchie's effort was enough to ensure three points stayed at the County Ground.
Swindon Town: Foderingham, McEveley, Flint, Devera, Ferry, Collins (Storey 87), Ritchie, McCormack (c), Williams, Miller, De Vita (Navarro 73).
Subs not used: Bedwell, Rooney, Risser, Thompson, Smith
Goal: Ritchie 40
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Otsemobor, MacKenzie, Lewington, Chicksen (Ibehre 75); Potter, Chadwick; Powell, O’Shea (Williams 42), Bowditch; Lowe (MacDonald 64).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Alli, Spence.
Sent-off: Lewington 40
Attendance: 8,299 (497 away)