MK Dons’ frustrations in front of goal continued as they suffered back-to-back League defeats for the first time this season as they were beaten 2-0 at Crawley Town.
A Billy Clarke brace ultimately ensured that the high-flying Crawley kept all three points at Broadfield Stadium, but it was a cruel, cruel result for the Dons would have felt they deserved more from the game.
The chances were there for the Dons, Daniel Powell was denied by the underside of the bar and Charlie MacDonald was left curing his luck in front of goal once more but despite their efforts Karl Robinson’s men walked away empty handed and still searching for the end to their three-game goal draught.
The Dons made four changes with returning Angelo Balanta the surprise face in the starting line-up, just hours after penning a loan deal with the Dons. Daniel Powell returned from injury while Charlie MacDonald and Antony Kay also made the starting XI.
Just three days after suffering a foot injury Stephen Gleeson was named amongst the seven substitutes as Shaun Williams moved up into midfield to partner Darren Potter.
Balanta, in his third loan spell for the Dons, had an early chance in the game but as the ball came to him on the left the QPR winger blazed over. The game certainly didn’t start with fireworks; instead it was more of a slow-paced game which allowed the Dons pass the ball around.
Crawley set-up to pack out the midfield with five men in the centre of the pitch, but Billy Clarke, drifting from the left to support Gary Alexander up front, tried to steer his side to the lead when he fizzed in a shot which fell wide of David Martin’s post.
At the other end, Powell looked to be causing a few early problems for the Red Devils as he was bundled to the floor on his route through to goal, which presented the visitors with a free-kick in a dangerous area. Unfortunately for the Dons though, they failed to make the most of the opportunity as Dean Lewington’s low delivery struck the Crawley wall.
Crawley then produced something out of nothing when Nicky Adams’ corner was not fully-cleared by the Dons which allowed Gary Alexander to fire in a ferocious cross and Clarke’s movement in the box saw him get on the end of the delivery and turn the ball home with his right foot.
It was a big blow for the Dons as there had been little in the way of action in front of either goal, yet it was the home side who had control of the score line.
The Red Devils could have doubled their lead soon after when Josh Simpson found himself in acres of space to drill a curling 20-yard effort which forced an excellent save from Martin.
Dons needed to inject a spark into their play and Luke Chadwick, playing in the hole with more freedom, tried to provide it as he surged through to send a shot straight into the grateful arms of Paul Jones.
Jones was again called into action, this time by MacDonald, who beat the offside trap to pounce on Powell’s flick down. The striker though, with Jones bearing down on him, appeared hesitant as he weighed up his options before sending his shot directly at the goalie. It was a big chance for the Dons to level the terms but they were left to find another option.
The Dons were in their rhythm and forced Crawley onto the back foot as the majority of football began to be played in the host’s half.
With all 10 outfield players in Crawley’s half Jon Otsemobor pushed forward to find Chadwick inside the box, the midfielder glanced up before cutting the ball back to Powell who watched as his dipping shot came off the underside of the post.
The chances kept coming for the Dons though as Williams played a perfectly weighted free-kick into the box yet MacDonald’s connection on Kouo-Doumbe’s glancing header back into the six-yard box lifted the ball just over the bar.
With MacDonald not finding the right side of Lady Luck, Ryan Lowe was introduced in the second half as the Dons continued their search for an equaliser.
It was however, Crawley who started the second half with an attacking spirit as Alexander sent a swerving shot wide within minutes of the restart. Adams was also allowed to run unchallenged before lifting a decent chance over without testing Martin in goal.
The newly introduced Lowe linked up well with an advancing Williams as the Dons tried to get a grip on the game, yet the utility man scuffed his shot wide.
Martin however, in the opposite goal was a little busier than he would have liked when he managed to palm away a stinging shot from the boot of Adams.
As the Dons upped their commitment to finding a way back into proceedings they left themselves open to Crawley’s counterattack football, thankfully for the Dons though when Alexander broke free his shot lacked any real bite.
was introduced to the fray to add a new element in the Dons’ attack, but the full-back-come-winger entered at a time when Crawley were in the ascendancy and Robinson’s men were forced to chase the ball.
Still lacking the threat they needed in front of goal and amongst the Crawley back four, a final roll of the dice came in the form of Alan Smith coming on in place of Chadwick.
The Dons camped in the Crawley half applying pressure, yet trying to crack the resolute defence was proving extremely difficult for the visitors. Darren Potter tried his luck with a fiercely-struck piledriver but once again there was no route through for the Dons.
The hammer blow was still to come for the Dons though as with less than a minute remaining on the clock, Crawley created something out of nothing for the second time in the game. They pull the Dons apart as Mark Connolly’s cross was whipped in and Clarke made the contact needed to find the back of the net and end any hopes the Dons may have had to snatch an equaliser.
Crawley Town: P Jones, Sadler, McFadzean, Akpan (Torres 86), Clarke (M Jones 90), Alexander (c), Simpson, Bulman (Connolly 86), Adams, Bryne, Davis.
Subs not used: M Kuipers, Connolly, Forte, Hunt.
Booked: Clarke, Davis
Goals: Clarke 21, 89
MK Dons: Martin; Otsemobor, Kouo-Doumbe, Kay, Lewington (c); Potter, Williams; Powell, Chadwick (Smith 74), Balanta (Chicksen 65); MacDonald (Lowe 46).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Gleeson, O’Shea, Allan.
Referee: Simon Hooper
Attendance: 2,853 (249 away)