MK Dons were beaten 2-0 by Colchester United at the JobServe Community Stadium but their fate remains in their hands heading into the final game of the season.
Sammie Szmodics put the U’s ahead after only two minutes with a drive from the edge of the area. Frankie Kent then doubled the lead, and sealed the win, early in the second half, firing home a loose ball.
It’s a defeat which keeps Dons in fourth place but their retain control of their own destiny courtesy of results elsewhere. The match is simple - a win over Mansfield Town at Stadium MK next weekend and Tisdale's men are up.
Boss Tisdale named an unchanged starting XI from the side which drew 1-1 with Port Vale on Easter Monday. There was, though, one addition to the squad - Joe Walsh returned after a spell on the sidelines to take up a place on the bench.
Colchester started bright and forced a early corner inside the opening two minutes. The first one was headed behind by the Dons but the second led to the deadlock being broken. The delivery fell to Szmodics on the edge of the area and he rifled a drive past Lee Nicholls. 1-0.
MK Dons looked to respond from a free-kick won by Conor McGrandles on the edge of the box moments after the re-start. McGrandles delivered but the U’s got it clear.
The hosts then went close to doubling their lead but Nicholls was able to keep out an effort from Frank Nouble, who may have been put off by the close pressure from Jordan Houghton.
Hesketh and Wheeler tried to combine on 12 minutes but the latter wasn’t able to gain control on the edge of the Colchester box. McGrandles then sent a chipped ball into the mix but a United defender was able to head away.
Colchester threatened again with two low balls into the area which, thankfully, went through untouched. Nouble then found himself through on goal for a second time but he dragged his left-footed shot wide.
On 27 minutes, the Dons won a corner from which Russell Martin headed wide. They had a better opportunity 60 seconds later, after Wheeler flicked on Callum Brittain’s ball, but McGrandles fired wide on the half volley.
Tisdale’s men kept their foot on the gas and struck the crossbar soon after. Brittain sent in a low ball from the right and Wheeler met it - his effort, though, cannoned back off the woodwork. Agard then burst into the area after beating Tom Eastman but Ryan Jackson raced back to dispossess him.
With seven minutes remaining in the half, a teasing cross from Ouss Cisse ended up in the arms of Ethan Ross despite Agard and Wheeler’s best efforts to connect. A cross from Brittain shortly afterwards was headed into the centre by Ryan Harley but Ross went up to gather above Agard.
Cisse had an opportunity to level the scores from Houghton’s free-kick just before the interval. The midfielder met the delivery at the far post but couldn’t divert his header on target. Courtney Senior had an even better chance for the U’s moments later but Nicholls denied him with a terrific diving save, down to his left.
Tisdale introduced Chuks Aneke off the bench at half-time but their task of getting back into the game was made tougher three minutes into the second period as U’s midfielder Kent drilled home a loose ball inside the area to make it 2-0 to the hosts.
Martin prevented Szmodics adding a third goal on 57 minutes with a last-ditch tackle deep inside his penalty area. From the resulting corner, the Colchester midfielder had a long-range effort deflected wide.
Aneke, looking to find his side a way back into the match, curled over in the 59th minute. Before the re-start, Brittain was replaced by George Williams. One of his first moments was to send in a cross which Wheeler couldn’t find Agard from.
On 66 minutes, McGrandles went agonisingly close to finding the net but his low effort deflected onto the post and away. That led to successive corner and, from the latter, Aneke headed over.
Tisdale’s final change saw Stephen Walker come on to replace Wheeler up front. He almost made an instant impact but his goal-bound effort was blocked by a sliding defender.
Colchester had a terrific opportunity to seal the win when Senior burst through on goal in the 74th minute. He had Szmodics for company but went alone and saw his effort saved by Nicholls to keep the Dons in it.
Tisdale’s men thought they were truly back in it four minutes later but Agard was adjudged to be offside when he fired the ball into the net. The striker pounced after Aneke hit the post with a curling shot from the edge of the area.
That was the closest the Dons would come to getting on the scoresheet and salvaging a result. They will have to pick themselves and prepare for a must-win game at Stadium MK next weekend.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Brittain, Martin, Houghton, Lewington (c); McGrandles, Cisse, Harley (Aneke 46); Wheeler (Walker 68), Agard, Hesketh.
Unused subs: Moore, Williams, Walsh, Watson, D’Ath.
Booked: Agard, Walker
Referee: A Coggins
Attendance: 5,000 (1,007 away)