MK Dons 2 Bradford City 3
MK Dons suffered a frustrating 3-2 loss to Bradford City on Saturday afternoon, despite twice fighting back from a goal down.
Both Patrick Bamford and Shaun Williams netted equalisers for Karl Robinson's side but Jason Kennedy's first of the season late on swung the tie in the visitors favour and condemned the Dons to a sixth League defeat of the season.
Karl Robinson handed a start to young midfielder Dele Alli, who had been out of action for two months with a foot injury. Alli, who played 45 minutes in Tuesday’s behind-closed-doors friendly with Fulham, started on the right-hand side of an attacking trio, alongside Daniel Powell and new England Under-21 international Patrick Bamford.
And it was the 17-year-old who went close to creating the Dons’ first goal of the game but after latching onto Stephen Gleeson’s interception, his pass forward to Izale McLeod was cut out by an outstretched Jason Kennedy.
Alli was involved again four minutes later when he won a free-kick on the edge of the Bradford City penalty area but the set-piece, taken by Shaun Williams, was tipped onto the crossbar by Jon McLaughlin.
On 13 minutes, Dons’ top goalscorer Bamford saw his first chance of the game fly just wide of the right-hand upright – a glancing header from Williams’ corner - before Gleeson had a curling free-kick deflected behind by Bradford wall soon after.
The visitors, buoyant after their 3-3 draw with the division’s in-form side Coventry City last weekend, were really struggling to make an impression on the match and their carelessness in possession allowed the Dons to control the tempo and the ball.
However, with a striker like Nahki Wells in their side, the Yorkshireman were always going to pose a threat to the Dons and on 20 minutes the highly-rated forward put them ahead against the run of play.
Wells, who took his tally for the season up to 13 on the season, beat the Dons’ offside trap to turn the Garry Thompson’s cross past Ian McLoughlin and into the bottom corner – much to the disbelief of the thousands inside stadiummk.
The Dons, though, could have levelled things up immediately after had Powell done better when one-on-one with McLaughlin; the winger only finding the chest of the Bantams ‘keeper from the corner of the box.
Bradford winger Kyel Reid then blasted a decent chance wide of the target for the visitors while, at the other end, Jason Spence’s header across was goal was turned wide by Bamford.
Bamford, fresh from making his debut for England Under-21s in mid-week, hadn’t scored for the Dons since his last minute winner at home to Rotherham United but the Chelsea loanee finally put an end to that run ten minutes before half-time with a sweet finish.
After racing onto Potter’s superb through-pass, the 20-year-old just managed to get his toe to the ball and poke it underneath the advancing McLaughlin to level things up at 1-1.
Bamford then had a chance to double his tally with a fierce right-footed shot which skimmed the crossbar, before Bradford, somehow, regained the lead in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
Reid, who was having a quiet game out on the wing, floated in what appeared to be a harmless right-footed cross, only for it to loop over Dons ‘keeper McLoughlin and into the top corner.
Bradford’s second goal was a cruel blow to Robinson’s men, who more than deserved to go in at half-time on level terms. McLeod did have an opportunity to make that the case, still, in injury time but his tight-angled shot was well saved by McLaughlin.
After a frantic start to the second half, the Dons, like they did in the first half, began to take control of the contest and had Bamford’s cross on 48 minutes been a little kinder for McLeod, the forward might have been able to produce an equaliser.
The two went close to linking up once again seconds later but this time McLeod failed to get anything on his partner’s teasing low cross.
Bradford, too, had chances to extend the lead inside the first 15 minutes of the second period - James Hanson going closest with a diving header which went millimetres wide of the post before the towering forward then hooked a Reid cross beyond the opposite upright.
On the hour, Robinson introduced Ben Reeves in place of McLeod and the former Southampton trainee went close to making an instant impact with a right-footed effort which caused McLaughlin a scare in the Bradford goal. At the other end, Wells went close to netting his second of the game with a neat free-kick which bounced wide via the post.
With 20 minutes to go it appeared as though the Dons would be dealt a blow when defender Williams limped off, with substitute defender Tom Flanagan getting ready on the sidelines. However, the Irishman was able to continue and that choice proved dividends when Alli won the hosts a penalty on 70 minutes.
The young midfielder was cleared tripped as he looked to turn Wells inside the box and Williams, who has not missed a spot-kick for the Dons in two years, confidently slotted home his third goal in as many games, to set up an interesting last quarter of an hour at MK1.
Now with their tails up, the Dons went in search of a late winner and had both Alli and Reeves managed to place their left-footed efforts the right side of the post, the Dons could have done just that with ten minutes to spare.
And the pair of misses proved costly when, on 84 minutes, Jason Kennedy met James Meredith's cross at the far post to put the visiting Bantams ahead for a third time. Kennedy, under pressure from Lewington, couldn't miss as he raced onto the teasing ball in.
The Dons continued to push forward late-on, going close through Reeves and Spence, but they just couldn't find that crucial third equaliser.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Hodson, Spence, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Powell, Bamford, Alli; McLeod (Reeves 60).
Subs: Burns (GK), Flanagan, Smith, Baldock, Banton, Carruthers.
Goals: Bamford 36, Williams (pen) 72
Booked: Spence, Alli
Sent off: None
Bradford City: McLaughlin, Darby, Meredith, Reid (Yeates 82), Kennedy, Hanson, Thompson (Doyle 74), Jones (c), Wells, Bates, McArdle.
Subs: Ripley (GK), Taylor, Connell, De Vita, McBurnie.
Goals: Wells 21, Reid 43, Kennedy 85
Booked: Thompson, Meredith
Sent off: None
Attendance: 8,970 (1,004 away)
Goal-Don Treble Chance Half-Time draw: 06-03-09-07