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Report: Exeter City 3-1 MK Dons

Defeat for Dons in Devon...

2 February 2019

MK Dons were beaten 3-1 by Exeter City at St James Park on a disappointing afternoon in Devon.

Paul Tisdale’s side looked like grabbing an equaliser up until Law’s second finish of the afternoon, which condemned them to a fifth straight away defeat - a result which now leaves them four points adrift of the automatic promotion places in Sky Bet League Two.

Boss Tisdale made two changes to his starting XI as Jordan Houghton and former Exeter City man David Wheeler came in to the side in place of Conor McGrandles and Kieran Agard. Deadline Day signings Jake Hesketh and Stephen Walker were amongst the substitutes.

Exeter provided the first threat with a cross in from the left which was headed away by Baily Cargill. Moments later, Archie Collins fired in a low shot which took a deflection off Chuks Aneke before being blocked by Houghton.

The hosts then took the lead with their next chance as Jonathan Forte managed to flick a ball between two Dons defenders onto the feet of Nicky Law, who directed his effort past Lee Nicholls from close-range. 1-0.

MK Dons responded and Wheeler had a terrific opportunity to level the scores in the 12th minute but he couldn’t keep his header down from Dean Lewington’s cross.

City got in again shortly afterwards but were denied by a diving block from Cargill. Jake Taylor then had an effort deflected wide before the midfielder doubled the lead with his next strike - a low attempt into the bottom right-hand corner. 2-0.

Tisdale’s side dominated most of the possession after the the second goal but weren’t able to break down a resilient Grecians backline. Then, on the half-hour mark, the home team went close to extending their lead to three but saw Nicholls get in the way of Law’s attempt at a second goal.

The Dons then broke forward and Wheeler won them a free-kick on the left corner of the box. Ryan Watson took the set-piece but blazed over with a right-footed strike.

Aneke then got in down the right but his cross deflected just behind Wheeler and Gilbey, who were awaiting the delivery in the area.

MK Dons emerged from the tunnel after half-time with a point to prove and Aneke flashed an early effort wide after just 11 seconds.

Tisdale’s men then worked it into the penalty area with Watson, who found Wheeler. He went down under a late challenge but referee Stephen Martin waved away appeals for a penalty.

Instead of a spot kick, the Dons were awarded a corner and from that they reduced the deficit. Watson sent the ball in and Walsh ran onto it with perfection before powering home a header into the bottom left corner. 2-1.

The Dons’ tails were up and in the 50th minute, Aneke climbed well to meet a cross from Cargill. His header was a good one but Christy Pym got down quickly to save on his goalline.

Exeter responded with Martin dragging a left-footed shot wide from a tight angle. Tisdale then introduced his Deadline Day signing Hesketh into the action, in the place of Harley.

The loanee was straight into the action and his low cross caused problems for Pym - the City keeper, though, was able to keep the ball out of his net and away from a Dons shirt.

On 59 minutes, Aneke forced his way through on goal from Wheeler’s flick on. He worked it to the edge of the area but was quickly closed down and the chance went begging.

It was Dons who were in the ascendancy but they certainly had to remain wary of City on the counter attack. Forte had a shot saved by Nicholls from one such counter attack on 65 minutes.

Hesketh was involved again on 68 minutes when, after some tricky footwork inside the area, he lifted a cross into the area for Aneke, whose header was straight at Pym.

MK Dons threatened again from another cross, this time sent in by Gilbey, which was headed over the crossbar by a leaping Wheeler.

Just as it looked like the tie was swinging in the Dons’ favour, a defensive mistake following a hopeful long ball forward allowed Law to sneak in for the home side and restore their two-goal lead. 3-1.

Walker was thrown on by Tisdale shortly after the goal in attempts to kick-start another comeback attempt. Wheeler made way. Law, though, almost made it four the hosts with a right-footed effort which Nicholls got across to, to palm wide.

D’Ath also entered the contest but neither he nor his teammates could inspire a change to the scoreline or the result.

Starting XI: Nicholls; Martin, Walsh, Cargill, Lewington (c); Watson, Houghton (D’Ath 88), Gilbey; Wheeler (Walker 75), Aneke, Harley (Hesketh 55).

Unused subs: Moore, Baudry, McGrandles, Agard.

Goal: Walsh (48)

Booked: Cargill, Gilbey

Referee: S Martin

Attendance: 5,766 (270 away)

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