MK Dons were narrowly beaten by Premier League visitors Fulham as their pre-season campaign came to an end at stadiummk.
Hugo Rodallega’s 81st minute tap-in ensured the Cottages went away with the bragging rights, but the Dons can take great pride from their performance against the top flight side. The Dons deserved more as they went close late on though Dean Bowditch and saw Shaun Williams miss a penalty.
Rodallega’s strike was the only goal the Dons conceded throughout pre-season and their displays will have given the Dons great confidence ahead of the new season, which starts on Saturday away to Cheltenham in the Capital One Cup.
The Dons switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation for the visit of the Cottagers and as a result Alan Smith dropped to the bench while Mathias Kouo-Doumbe was rested as Jay O’Shea and Charlie MacDonald moved into the starting line-up.
Fulham fielded a mixed side with a number of their first team rested Martin Jol opted for a squad of youth and experience with the likes of Stephen Kelly, Steve Sidwell and Hugo Rodallega the most notable names.
The match was slow burner at stadiummk with both sides taking the time to find their rhythm in the game. The Dons, in their more familiar system, were keen to play their usual passing style of football and enjoyed plenty of possession in the early phases.
Chances though were at a premium with only a snap shot from MacDonald, which was well-blocked by the first defender, and a long-range effort from Steve Sidwell rising well over the bar at the other end.
It took until the 19th minute until either goalkeeper was tested with the tricky Marcello Trotta, the striker who scored against the Dons while on loan at Wycombe last season, weaving his way through the Dons defence before his low drill was blocked by the leg of Martin.
The Dons’ best chance came in the 25th minute when O’Shea was found on the edge of the box after some excellent play from Luke Chadwick and Dean Bowditch, but Fulham goalie David Stockdale made a comfortable save.
Some excellent play from the Dons, with Adam Chicksen pushing on from the right-back position, led to a great chance for them to truly test Stockdale. Chicksen raced down the right flank, cutting in and out on his way through, before cutting back from the byline to Darren Potter. The midfielder tried to stroke the ball into the net when he should have used more power and Stockdale made an easy collection.
There was little in the way of exhilarating goal mouth action however, Karl Robinson will have taken great pride from the manner in which his side were bossing proceedings and possession.
Fulham looked more lively in the second half but it was difficult to see how the deadlock would be broken. The visitors had left-back Matthew Bridges race down the wing to dive a shot at Martin, and the Dons goalie never appeared to be in danger.
A foul just outside the corner of the box presented the Cottagers with a chance to test Martin once more, and Hugo Rodallega gave it his best shot as, after Pajtim Kasami left the free-kick in a move right off the training pitch, he curled a low strike goal-bound only for Martin to turn the ball away at the post.
The introduction of Ryan Lowe brought a spark to the game as the new signing looked impressive up front on his own. The former Sheffield Wednesday man picked up a superb ball over the top of the Fulham defence but his cross into the box was too advanced for the onrunning Chadwick.
In the 69th minute though the link-up between Rowe and Chadwick was perfect as the latter fed an excellent ball through for Chadwick and with Stockdale looming down on him the midfielder took a touch and was subsequently brought tumbling to the floor.
The resulting penalty offered the Dons the chance to take the lead, however, Williams uncharacteristically fired well off-target.
Fulham could have punished the Dons for the missed penalty when Ronny Mikwitz found his way past MacKenzie in the box only to see his furious shot superbly saved by Martin. Moments later Briggs again found himself in advanced position but watched as Martin parried his shot into the path of Mikwitz, who inexplicably blasted over from inside six-yards.
After little action the game suddenly come to life in the closing stages with both teams looking for the win that would boost their pre-season preparations.
And it was Fulham who managed to break the deadlock with a tricky corner from Alex Kacaniklic. The ball was played short into the path of Zdenek Grygera whose shot was block, but the intelligent movement of Rodallega allowed the Cottagers forward to pounce and fire past Martin.
The Dons had the opportunity to pull the scores level four minutes from the end when the impressive Lowe was found on the right touchline to deliver an inch perfect cross for Bowditch. The forward sent a looping volley against the crossbar.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Chicksen (Hickford 90), MacKenzie, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch, Chadwick, O’Shea (Smith 79); MacDonald (Rowe 61).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Lobjoit.
Fulham: Stockdale, Briggs, Burn (Grygera 70), Baird (c), Kelly, Sidwell, Kasami, Frei (Mikwitz 46), Rodallega, Trotta (Kacaniklic 61), Tue Na Bangna.
Subs not used: Brister, Kavanagh, Somigyi.
Goal: Rodallega 81
Goal-don goal time: 80:24