MK Dons saw their unbeaten run come to an end at Stadium MK as they were beaten 3-1 by play-off chasing Derby County.
Liam Manning’s men took the lead, and deservedly so, thanks to Louie Barry’s first goal for the Club. Derby, however, levelled before the break and then went on to score twice after the break to secure an away win on their first visit to Milton Keynes since 2015.
The loss leaves the Dons inside the bottom four in Sky Bet League One, though the gap between them and the team above them, Accrington Stanley, remains at three points.
Head Coach Manning reverted back to the starting XI who picked up four points from their last two Sky Bet League One outings, while there were places on the bench for Mo Eisa and Tennai Watson.
The Dons had a fantastic opportunity early on to take the lead when they won possession deep in the Derby half. Josh McEachran won possession and found Barry who, in turn, played in Grigg. He latched onto the through pass but was thwarted by goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith. Barry, on the rebound, couldn’t get a shot on target.
Barry was involved again, on four minutes, playing a ball down the line for Daniel Harvie, whose low cross was cleared away inside the Derby penalty area. Barry, himself, then tried his luck after cutting in from the left but his effort towards goal was blocked.
The Dons’ next attack came down the right, following an excellent pass from Bradley Johnson over to Henry Lawrence. He delivered low into the box but the ball was just behind Grigg. Derby then threatened for the first time but Lewis Dobbins’ effort was deflected into the arms of Jamie Cumming by Harvie.
From a quickly-taken Derby free-kick, Dean Lewington was forced to head behind Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s cross. That led to successive corners and, from the second, the Rams had the ball in the back of the net, courtesy of Dobbin, but the linesman’s flag was quickly raised for offside.
The Dons then earned a corner for themselves, though it led to a counter-attacking opportunity for their visitors. However, Lawrence, the player who was dispossessed, raced back towards his goal and managed to deny Mendez-Laing with a well-time tackle inside his own penalty area.
Just prior to the half-hour, Holland had an opportunity to test Wildsmith but saw a defender get in the way of his right-footed attempt. The resulting corner made its way through to Warren O’Hora at the back post but he wasn’t able to get a shot away.
Manning’s men were then awarded a free-kick for a foul on Lewington and it led to another chance on goal – Johnson getting his head to McEachran’s teasing ball in, only to be denied by a terrific diving save from Wildsmith.
Harvie was the next to see a shot blocked as the Dons threatened to break the deadlock again. Shortly after, Jules headed wide from McEachran’s deep corner.
Manning’s men would have been desperately unlucky not to go into the half-time interval without a goal but they deservedly opened the scoring with 41 minutes played.
After clearing a corner at the near post, the Dons broke forward with Holland who spotted Barry alongside him. His ball through allowed the Aston Villa a clear run on goal and he kept his composure to round Wildsmith and slot home his first goal in a Dons shirt. 1-0.
They weren’t, though, able to take a lead into the break as Derby fired back almost immediately, with Roberts climbing well inside the area to head past Cumming from an in-swinging corner. 1-1.
Despite the equaliser, there was plenty for Manning and his side to be happy about at the interval though they were forced into a change for the second half – Eisa on in place of the goalscorer, Barry.
The Dons were forced to defend two early corners from the visitors, including a mad scramble deep inside their penalty area, before Eisa and Grigg combined to provide the latter a chance on goal – his effort, however, was blocked by a sliding defender.
With five minutes played in the second period, Lawrence had a go at beating Wildsmith, after cutting in from the right flank, but his shot was off target. The Dons then found themselves behind, as Collins converted from close-range despite appeals for offside inside the penalty area – and the linesman’s flag being raised. 1-2.
Manning was forced into his second change with just over an hour played as Harvie had to be withdrawn due to injury. He was replaced by Watson, who came on for his first league appearance of the season.
On 66 minutes, Lawrence earned his team a free-kick on the left wing which provided McEachran a chance to deliver a ball into the area, though the Dons weren’t able to capitalise on the opportunity. Another McEachran free-kick followed and this one was headed clear by a Rams defender.
Watson provided a shooting chance for Grigg but, from the right-back’s low cross, the MK Dons number nine saw his goal-bound effort blocked by Craig Forsyth. From the resulting corner, Eisa beat Wildsmith in the air and got a head to Holland’s in-swinging ball but he couldn’t keep it down and on target.
Wildsmith gathered a cross from Jules as the Dons pushed forward again with a little over a quarter of an hour left to play. Holland then drilled a shot wide, after skipping away from a challenge on the edge of the D.
The Dons were made to pay their missed opportunities when, on the counter attack, Derby doubled their lead through Mendez-Laing who collected a pass inside the box and managed to squeeze a shot past the sliding Lewington and Cumming. 1-3.
Darragh Burns and Matthew Dennis were brought off the bench in an attempt to salvage a result. Burns was involved early, sending in a cross for Eisa, who was penalised for a foul as he went up to meet the cross. He then tried an ambitious attempt from range with Wildsmith off his line, but couldn’t find the target.
Six minutes of stoppage time were awarded and in the first of those, Jules had a header saved by Wildsmith. That was the closest Manning’s men came to getting back into the match as they fell to their first defeat in five.
MK Dons: Cumming, Lewington, O’Hora, McEachran, Grigg (Dennis 84), Holland (Burns 84), Johnson, Barry (Eisa 46), Harvie (Watson 62), Lawrence, Jules.
Subs: Ravizzoli, Tucker, Devoy.
Goal: Barry (41)
Booked: Harvie, Lewington, Dennis
Derby County: Wildsmith, Forsyth, Hourihane Stearman (90+3), Bird, Collins (McGoldrick 76), Mendez-Laing (Thompson 87), Smith, Roberts, Sibley, Dobbin (Osula 76), Rooney.
Subs: Loach, Aghatise, Oduroh.
Goals: Roberts (43), Collins (53), Mendez-Laing (79)
Booked: Mendez-Laing, Rooney, Wildsmith
Referee: J Linington
Attendance: 13,950 (6,542 away)