Gary Sawyer and Kevin Lisbie delivered a sickening blow to MK Dons’ play-off hopes as they ensured a Leyton Orient victory at the Matchroom Stadium.
The Dons could have narrowed the gap between them and the play-offs with three points on a ground where they held an unbeaten record, however two goal in the last nine minutes from Sawyer and Lisbie leaves Karl Robinson’s side four points adrift of the top six with three games to go.
Robinson’s men had two goals ruled out – Dean Bowditch denied by the offside flag and Mathias Kouo-Doumbe for a foul on the ‘keeper – while Shaun Williams twice stung the palms of Jamie Jones as chances went begging.
The O’s had called on Ian McLoughlin on a number of occasions in the first half and were on the front foot for large stages of the match but the Dons still showed spells of dominance until the O’s upped the pressure in the late stages and had the clinical edge to take three points from the game.
The Dons made two changes to the side which beat Swindon Town on Tuesday evening with Chris Lines replacing the injured Stephen Gleeson and Ryan Lowe reclaiming his place in the starting XI with Luke Chadwick dropping to the bench.
Facing the Dons was their former striker Charlie MacDonald who was released in January and subsequently signed for the O’s.
The first real chance of note came in the fifth minute when a Dean Cox free-kick at the right of the box found Romain Vincelot at the edge of the area, but his shot was fired into the body of Ian McLoughlin.
The O’s, who started the game on the same number of points and just a place behind the Dons, showed flashes of danger especially in the wide areas. The usually trusted Darren Potter found himself in trouble when Moses Obudajo took the ball from his feet to feed Jimmy Smith into play.
Jimmy Smith manoeuvred into a better position before drilling a strong shot goal-bound yet McLoughlin’s excellent block with his leg once again denied the hosts from taking the lead.
Orient started the better side and were quick to press the Dons and force them onto the back foot. Shortly before the 15 minute mark McLoughlin was called upon for his third strong stop of the day when Jimmy Smith got his head on a Cox corner, but the slightest of touch from Dean Lewington helped divert the ball to McLoughin rather than the back of the net.
In the blink of an eye, the Dons could have found themselves in the lead as the bodies piled forward and Dean Bowditch turned a low cross into the box. Unfortunately, Bamford mis-judged the ball and turned his shot woefully wide.
The Dons were finding life difficult at the Matchroom Stadium as, on a swamp of a pitch with heavy rain pouring overhead, they struggled to get into their passing rhythm and found a number of the passes falling astray or were intercepted by the O’s.
Despite being far from their best, the Dons went close to breaking the deadlock in the 30 minute a great run by Bamford saw him pick up the ball after some great build-up play by his team-mates, and the young striker lobbed the keeper but his effort nestled into the side netting.
It had taken plenty of time, but the Dons’ rhythm appeared to be flowing again when Bamford held up the ball before squaring to Lowe on the edge of the box. The Liverpudlian had his shot blocked and when the ball fell to Bowditch he tucked it into the bottom corner only for the offside flag to deny him.
Three minutes before the break Jamie Jones was called into action for the first real time when a well-struck Shaun Williams free-kick looked destined find its way into the back of the net but the O’s goalie, at full-stretch, was able to tip away at the near post.
Following the interval the O’s started brightly but it was the Dons who went close to opening the scoring eight minutes into the second when a fine cross from Adam Chicksen
found Bowditch but the winger’s outstretched foot couldn’t turn the ball on target.
With little between the two sides and the game lacking a spark Robinson gambled on the hour-mark with a double substitute allowing Chadwick and Daniel Powell to enter the fray in the place of Lowe and Chicksen.
The duo almost had an immediate impact as they linked up in midfield before Chadwick found Bamford and the Chelsea sent a thunderous strike just inches over the bar.
The Dons were on the ascendancy and had Orient on the back foot but making their chances count as Williams was once again denied by another great save from Jones. The O’s goalie pulled off a carbon copy save of the one in the first half as he tipped the ball around the post.
From the resulting corner Mathias Kouo-Doumbe thought he had his second goal in as many games, but referee Andy D’Urso spotted in infringement and quickly ruled out the goal.
For as much of the ball that the Dons had enjoyed in the second half they did not carry a lead, and the O’s still had plenty of danger in their side. When Lee Cook showed a clean pair of heels to break down the left and he delivered a superb cross into the box which carried pace. Fortunately for the Dons McLoughlin got his hand to the ball to push it out of the path of the on-running Cox, who could have turned in at the near-post.
And the sting in the tail came from the O’s in the form of a low strike from the edge of the area courtesy of Sawyer. The O’s had barely had a sniff in the second half, but the Dons’ sloppiness cost them when they failed to clear Rowlands’ driven ball in and Sawyer was able to drill his shot beyond the reach of McLoughlin.
The goal was a huge blow for the Dons and with their heads down they almost conceded a second but they had McLoughlin to thank for saving from Lisbie at full-stretch.
As the Dons piled forward looking for an equaliser they were hit on the counter-attack with some impressive football from Orient. Cook, Cox and Lisbie exchanged passes across the pitch as the push forward and it was Lisbie who delivered the final blow for the Dons as he tucked home the O’s second of the game.
Leyton Orient: Jones, McSweeney, Sawyer, Vincelot, Cox, Lisbie, J Smith, MacDonald (Cook 70), Clarke (c), Odubajo, Rowlands.
Subs: Butcher, Obafemi,, James, Lee, Vanderhyde.
Booked: Vincelot, Ritchie, Lisbie
Goals: Sawyer 82, Lisbie 90
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Otsemobor (McLeod 82), Kouo-Doumbe, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Lines; Bowditch, Lowe (Chadwick 61), Chicksen (Powell 61); Bamford.
Subs: Smith, Baldock, Kay.
Attendance: 4,634 (648 away)