Defeat to Scunthorpe United ended MK Dons’ faint hopes of the npower League 1 play-offs in the Dons’ final home game of the season.
The Dons were downed by a scrappy first-half goal from Karl Hawley, which ultimately ensured the Iron’s fight to keep their League 1 status alive goes down to the final game of the season. A poor first-half performance from Karl Robinson’s men was their downfall but in the second half they were left to curse the form of Sam Slocombe who pulled off a string of superb saves.
The result at stadiummk was redundant to the Dons’ hopes of reaching the play-offs as Swindon’s convincing win elsewhere ensured it was the Robins who sealed the final spot in the play-offs.
Robinson made only one change to the side which beat Colchester United days earlier and it was enforced as injured skipper Dean Lewington missed out meaning Antony Kay slotted in to defence and Shaun
Williams moved into an out-of-position left-back.
The Dons headed into the game knowing they had to better Swindon’s result against Stevenage to keep their play-off hopes alive until the final day of the season, whereas Scunthorpe had to win and hope Colchester United slipped up to keep their League 1 status alive.
In the opening five minute the Dons had a penalty shout turned down by referee James Linington when Dean Bowditch’s shot inside the area appeared to hit the outstretched arm of Jimmy Ryan, but the hosts’ appeals were to no avail.
The Dons saw most of the ball in the opening quarter of an hour with Patrick Bamford and Darren Potter both finding avenues into the box but unable to find the touch to cut open the Iron defence.
The first real opening of the game though fell to Brian Laws’ side when a good run from the left-hand side allowed Mark Duffy to shoot from distance but a fine block from Williams diverted it out for a corner.
Scunthorpe had to get on the score sheet early to settle their own nerves and but for a save at the near post from Ian McLoughlin, they would have done in the 22nd minute when Duffy once again left fly in hope of the ball squeezing beyond the Dons goalie.
There was little tempo in the game, but the Dons found a route through to goal when Chadwick turned the ball to the feet of Bamford. The off-balance forward went for placement rather than power and as a result Sam Slocombe comfortably saved the shot.
Chadwick then tried to grab the game by the scuff of the neck with a mazy run from the left of midfield, thanks to a brilliant ball from Williams, which saw him weave his way into the box before driving a low effort just inched passed the left post.
The match was far from a classic but the visitors would not have cared one bit when, five minutes before the break, they took the lead as slack defending cost the Dons. Jimmy Ryan and Darren Potter tangled at the right of the Dons’ box but Ryan was the first to his feet and he raced to the byline to turn the ball into the area.
McLoughlin was unable to get on the end of the cross and Hawley, after initially mis-hitting the ball, bundled the ball home.
The goal, coupled with news of Swindon winning, was a sucker-punch to the Dons’ play-off hopes and they headed in at half-time knowing a faster-tempo and much-improved performance was needed to end their home campaign on a high.
Within two minutes of the re-start Slocombe was forced into action as the Dons came quickly out of the traps and a long-range strike from Williams was pushed out for a corner. From the resulting corner, which was delivered by Williams, Jon Otsemobor turned a first-time effort over the bar.
There was more fight from the Dons as a lovely set-piece went close to levelling the scores when a short corner from Williams was played back to him by Bowditch unfortunately though Potter’s glancing header fell into Slocombe’s arms.
Slocombe was back in the thick of the action moments later when Powell twisted his way into the box yet saw a close range effort parried by the Iron goalie. Bowditch was then left wondering how he hadn’t scored when the loose ball fell to him but this time the left heel of Slocombe blocked the low drive, but the ‘keeper knew very little about his second save.
Needing some impious in the game, Robinson took a gamble by switching to three at the back as he replaced Otsemobor with striker Ryan Lowe.
The forward almost had an immediate impact when he was found by an excellent ball from Potter, which cut out the Iron defence, and raced down the left wing. Lowe glanced up to Bamford running into the box but as the cross came in, his arrival proved too soon and the ball whizzed past him.
The second half had been all Dons pressure as they desperately searched for the goal that would bring them back into the proceedings. They camped in the Scunthorpe box as a corner failed to be cleared fully, which allowed Gleeson to drift the ball back in from a deep position but Slocombe pulled off another excellent save as he tipped a fine Mathias Kouo-Doumbe header over the bar.
Scunthorpe had their backs against the wall and almost created the equaliser for the hosts when Michael Collins accidentally crossed the ball into the path of Potter who sent a piledriver at Slocombe. The Iron keeper juggled with the ball and as Bamford got his head on the loose ball the offside flag went up. As it turned out the striker’s header had hit the post anyway, in a move that had summed up their luckless second half.
The scoreline at the County Ground made the Dons’ result redundant, but Robinson clearly had a desire to end their home campaign on a high as he made a late double substitution to bring on Izale McLeod and Chris Lines.
As the Dons committed men forward they were left exposed at the back and twice went close to falling even further behind. A mix up between Williams and McLoughlin allowed Anthony Forde to fired goal-bound, but the effort fell inches wide.
Moments later McLoughlin made up for the error when he blocked Hawley’s shot with his legs.
The final whistle signalled the end to a disappointing game for the Dons, and left the question ‘what if?’ hanging over the Club’s campaign.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Otsemobor (Lowe 62), Kouo-Doumbe (Lines 82) , Kay, Williams; Potter, Gleeson; Powell, Chadwick (McLeod 82), Bowditch; Bamford.
Subs: Smith, Baldock, Galloway.
Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Ribeiro, Mirfin, Reid (c), Ryan, Duffy, Godden (Alabi 77), Collins, Newey, Hawley, Forde.
Subs: Johansen, Grella, Gibbons, Adeakun, Howe.
Goal: Hawley 41
Referee: James Linington (Isle of Wight)
Attendance: 9,752 (276 away)
Goal-Don Goal times: 1st goal - 40.13