MK Dons endured a difficult night in Greater Manchester as they were beaten 5-0 by in-form Bolton Wanderers at the University of Bolton Stadium.
The Trotters, who scored five against Peterborough United at the weekend, did most of their damage in the opening half an hour of the midweek contest, with goals from Ricardo Santos, Luke Mbete and Gethin Jones giving them a 3-0 lead after just 27 minutes.
Mark Jackson’s side did have chances to get on the scoresheet throughout the evening but weren’t able to beat James Trafford. Bolton were able to add to their advantage in the second half through Eoin Toal and Randell Williams, who capped off a convincing win for the promotion-chasers.
The only saving grace for the Dons was that, courtesy of results elsewhere, they remained outside of the bottom four in Sky Bet League One by a point.
Jackson made one change from Saturday's draw with Oxford United, as Henry Lawrence came in for Tennai Watson. The Dons number 2 was amongst the substitutes along with Nathan Holland and Matt Smith, who both returned to the squad.
The Dons thought they were in on goal with three minutes played but Jonathan Leko was adjudged to be offside from Sullay Kaikai’s through pass. Leko, had he timed his run a little early, would have had control in a three-on-one situation.
Bolton threatened for the first time shortly after, with top scorer Dion Charles trying his luck from range. His effort, though, sailed harmlessly over Jamie Cumming’s crossbar.
Cumming was then called into action on six minutes but he was equal to Declan John’s angled strike. That chance, however, led to a corner from which the home side took the lead – SANTOS with the header past Cumming from John’s out-swinging delivery. 1-0.
In search of an instant response, Jack Tucker sent a long ball over the top for Leko to chase but James Trafford was quick out of his goal to gather on the edge of his area. Trafford’s opposite number, Cumming, was then forced to get down quickly to gather Gethin Jones’ cheeky attempt to squeeze a shot inside the near post.
The Dons did have an opportunity to level the scores on 13 minutes, following some excellent play by Paris Maghoma. The Brentford loanee won possession, surged forward and then found Eisa, who saw his effort on goal saved by Trafford.
Eisa turned provider to set up Leko at the quarter-hour mark but, from just inside the area, the winger had his effort blocked by a sliding Bolton defender. At the other end, Tucker produced an excellent last-ditch tackle to take the ball off Victor Adeboyejo’s toes as he went to pull the trigger.
The Dons appeared to be growing in confidence but their hosts looked extremely dangerous from set-pieces and with 21 minutes on the clock, they doubled their lead from another corner – MBETE, this time, the man heading in from Jones’ cross. 0-2.
Kaikai had a cross blocked at the near post as the Dons went in search of a goal to reduce to the deficit. He had another chance to deliver a ball into the mix on 27 minutes but sent his cross straight into the arms of Trafford.
Bolton, though, were in a clinical and unforgiving mood and they extended their lead just before the half-hour mark through JONES, who was able to beat Cumming with a first-time effort following a low cross in from the left. 0-3.
There was a half-chance for Eisa to pull a goal back soon after the re-start but he wasn’t able to head home from Leko’s teasing cross. That’s because his attempt appeared to be blocked by the arm of striker Eoin Teal – an infringement which wasn’t spotted by the referee.
Soon after, Jules was almost able to meet a McEachran corner for the Dons but John made a vital headed interception to deny the defender. From the following corner, both Daniel Harvie and Tucker had shots blocked.
The Dons did have the ball in the net in the 44th minute but the offside flag meant Kaikai’s volleyed effort, from Harvie’s chipped pass over the defence, was chalked off – though replays showed that the winger was, in fact, in line with the last defender.
Leko and Kaikai had chances, too, in stoppage-time but neither were able to find the target and pull a goal back before the break.
Kaikai’s try was his final involvement as he was withdrawn at the break – Jackson moving to a back three with Watson on his place and slotting in on the right-hand side of the central trio.
The new-look Dons had an early opportunity to bring the deficit down to two but Devoy curled over the bar from the edge of the area, after being teed up by Leko. Moments later, Eisa sent a ball into the box from the right but Trafford was able to gather.
Eisa was almost the beneficiary of a ball in from the right on 50 minutes but he saw Watson’s delivery intercepted right in front of him by Toal – an excellent piece of defending from the Trotters central defender, denying Eisa would have been a simple finish.
Bolton offered a reminder of their threat for the first time with 57 minutes on the clock as Toal stung the palms of Cumming with a fierce strike from 20 yards out. The MK Dons goalkeeper then produced a stunning stop to keep Adeboyejo’s header out from the resulting corner.
Trafford make an equally impressive save moments later to prevent Leko from finding the bottom corner of his net with a well-hit effort across goal, after the MK Dons number 12 had been picked out in the area by Lawrence.
Cumming, again, was called into action on the hour as he kept out Charles’ diving header at point-blank range. Tucker then cleared off the line from Jones’ follow-up attempt but Bolton weren’t to be denied a fourth from the resulting corner, as TOAL lashed home a loose ball from another John delivery. 4-0.
Eisa had a goal-bound strike blocked as the Dons searched for a way to get on the scoresheet. Leko and Jules then went close to combining, following the latter’s surging run forward, but the return pass to Jules was cut out. Jules then headed over from the corner that followed.
Just prior to the corner, Jackson brought Will Grigg off the bench in place of Eisa. He also introduced Bradley Johnson and Matt Smith later in the contest, with McEachran and Maghoma the players making way.
Jackson was also able to hand minutes late on to Nathan Holland – his first appearance since limping off against Lincoln City due to a thigh injury.
Holland's introduction, probably, the Dons’ only real positive on a difficult night – one which was only compounding in the final minute of injury time by substitute WILLIAMS, who made it five. 5-0.
MK Dons: Cumming, Tucker, McEachran (Johnson 78), Eisa (Grigg 68), Leko, Harvie, Lawrence, Kaikai (Watson 46) Devoy (Holland 86), Jules, Maghoma (Smith 78)
Subs: Ravizzoli, Burns
Bolton Wanderers: Trafford, Jones (Isgrove 78), John (Williams 78), Santos, Charles (Lee 73), Morley, Shoretire (Kachunga 78), Toal, Dempsey (Sheehan 72), Mbete, Adeboyejo
Subs: Dixon, Thomason
Goals: Santos (8), Mbete (21), Jones (27), Toal (62), Williams (90+2)
Referee: M Edwards
Attendance: 16,634 (177 away)
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