MK Dons slumped to their third successive League defeat as they were beaten 3-1 by mangerless Oldham Athletic.
Two weeks ago both League 1 sides were celebrated for their respective giant killings in the FA Cup, however, since then though the Dons have dropped nine points in the League which has ultimately seen them fall into the second half of the table.
Oldham’s League form has been patchy all season, but following the departure of boss Paul Dickov last Sunday the Latics were in a fighting spirit as they took an early lead through Lee Barnard.
A below-par Dons found themselves back in the game with a fine strike from Daniel Powell, but moments later a free header from Jean-Yves M’voto fired the hosts back in front. The Dons tried to battle back in the second half but a third goal for the Latics, coming from Chris Iwelumo proved too big a mountain to climb.
The Dons made three changes to the side which suffered defeat to AFC Bournemouth a week earlier with fit-again Gary MacKenzie and Daniel Powell returning to the starting XI while Alan Smith started up front on his own.
There was even better news for the Dons as Luke Chadwick, who has been out with knee ligament damage for over six weeks, took up a place on the six-man bench for the visitors to Boundary Park.
Oldham began brightly with Jordan Obita whipping in a number of early crosses and the Latics’ forward line forcing the Dons on the back foot in the early phases.
The hosts were quick to press the Dons in possession which prevented Karl Robinson’s side playing the passing football that makes them tick. After ten minutes though, the Dons began to settle and when Powell was fouled five-yards outside the area it allowed them to have their first attempt at goal.
Shaun Williams stepped up for the set-piece and fizzed his effort into the arms of Athletic ‘keeper Dean Bouzanis.
Oldham shaded the early phases with plenty of ball in the Dons’ final third and when Lee Barnard’s ball into the box from the left failed to be cleared the opportunity opened up for Jean-Yves M’voto. The centreback had pushed forward and as the ball fell to him at the edge of area he sent an acrobatic overhead effort wide of the post.
The Latics’ positive start though didn’t go unrewarded for long as Lee Croft weaved through right to pick up a poor pass from Dean Lewington and quickly found Barnard in acres of space in the box. The Southampton loanee shuffled his feet to better his angle and fired across the body of David Martin and into the back of the net.
While the goal came from a mistake by the Dons skipper, the Latics would have felt it was the least they had deserved from their strong start. At the opposite end Powell tried to inspire an immediate response but his cross-come-shot skimmed across the six-yard box with no-one to get on the end of it.
Oldham had the run of midfield which allowed them to keep their grip on the game, meanwhile little seemed to falling for the Dons as passes went astray, challenges were lost and momentum seemed a distant dream.
However, in the blink of an eye the Dons found themselves back on level terms when Otsemobor played a superb ball in behind Powell on the right flank and the winger exploded into action. At some pace the winger breached the Latics box and fired with venom beyond Bouzanis.
Just as the Dons had established a foothold in the game the Latics hit back. The Dons defence failed to pick up the movement of M’voto who was afforded time and space as he planted a header from Croft’s free-kick into the bottom corner as Martin stood static between the sticks.
Conceding on the stroke of half-time was a sucker-punch for the Dons and would have further fuelled Robinson’s team talk at the interval. At the restart the Dons boss had decided a change was needed and introduced Chadwick in the hope of finding the creative spark which had been desperately lacking in the opening 45 minutes.
The creativity though immediately came from the hosts as Chris Iwelumo was threaded through after Darren Potter was disposed in midfield, and eased beyond the Dons’ defence, yet fired over the bar.
A mazy run by Chadwick soon earned the Dons a free-kick from the left of the box, Chris Lines saw his dead ball delivery take a deflection from the wall and Bouzanis was forced into a superb one-handed tip over the bar.
From the resulting corner from Bowditch, Smith managed to get a flick-on which brought another great reaction stop from the Latics ‘keeper.
Oldham then showed the attacking threat they now possesses since the closure of the January transfer window as they broke on the counter-attack and Martin was called into action. However, the Latics had a second wave of attack and when Martin spilt a cross the instinctive Iwelumo was on hand to smash home from close-range.
Despite looking more positive going forward in the second half, the Dons found themselves 3-1 down which forced a second substitute from Robinson just ten minutes after the break.
Izale McLeod entered the fray to partner Smith up front while Chadwick moved in behind the duo.
The Latics’ defence worked hard to keep McLeod quiet, but when he managed to beat the offside trap in the 65th minute the striker failed to keep his chipped effort down as it rose over the bar.
The visitors saw more of the ball and were pushing hard to carve open the chances they need to claw themselves back into the game, but the cutting edge in the final third was lacking and causing further frustration to the players.
The Dons were camped in the Oldham half delivering wave after wave of attack with both defenders Williams and MacKenzie pushing into advanced positions to strengthen the options up front. And it was Williams who went close with free-header in the box on to Lewington’s cross from deep, but the ball fell straight into the grateful arms if Bouzanis.
Continued pressure came from the Dons as Oldham sat deep and defended, but ultimately a poor first half cost Robinson’s side who now look to Doncaster on Tuesday.
Oldham Athletic (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Brown (Byrne 90), M’voto, Tarkowski, Grounds; Croft (Furman 69), Wesolowski (c), Baxter, Obita (Taylor 87); Iwelumo, Barnard.
Subs: Cisak, Murray, Millar, Winchester.
Goals: Barnard 22, M’voto 44, Iwelumo 53
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Otsemobor, MacKenzie, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Lines (McLeod 55); Powell, Harley (Chadwick 46), Bowditch; Smith (Chicksen 67).
Subs not used: Kouo-Doumbe, Baldock, Flanagan.
Goal: Powell 39
Referee: D Whitstone (Northamptonshire)
Attendance: 4,094 (185 away)