A brace from Jevani Brown saw MK Dons beaten 2-0 by Exeter City at Stadium MK.
Despite a dominant performance in terms of possession and chances, the Dons were undone by two goals from the Grecians striker – the first from the penalty spot on 37 minutes followed by a second from inside the area midway through the second period.
Despite the defeat, Mark Jackson’s men remain above the bottom four in Sky Bet League One but only on goal difference. They will want to return to winning ways quickly and their next opportunity to do that is at Bristol Rovers next weekend.
Sullay Kaikai and Paris Maghoma were handed their full MK Dons debuts as Mark Jackson makes two changes to his starting XI. Will Grigg and Josh McEachran were the two who made way – they were amongst the substitutes along with January signing Max Dean.
There was an early chance for the visitors, two minutes in, but Jevani Brown’s curling effort from 20 yards went wide of Jamie Cumming’s right-hand post. Jonathan Leko then earned MK Dons their first corner following a run down the right flank but Jackson’s side weren’t able to take advantage.
Leko was involved again as the Dons had their first opportunity on goal in the fifth minute. The winger did well inside the area before teeing up Dawson Devoy, whose shot was deflected into the arms of Jokull Andresson.
Sullay Kaikai threatened for the first time with 10 minutes played, attempting a one-two with Mo Eisa which was well snuffed out by Exeter full-back Jake Caprice. Kaikai then won his new team a corner, from which Jack Tucker had a header blocked and hooked clear.
With 18 minutes on the clock, Eisa twisted and turned inside the area before teeing up Tennai Watson, on the edge of the area, whose drive was blocked by a defender. A lofted ball over the top from Tucker then provided a chance for Kaikai, but his looping shot was claimed by Andresson.
The Dons’ best chance at a goal inside the opening 20 minutes came when Devoy picked out Eisa with a through pass. The striker had a clear run on goal but wasn’t able to find the target, despite going agonisingly close to placing his attempt into the bottom right corner.
Jackson’s men threatened again when Daniel Harvie, wearing the captain’s armband, skipped inside and was allowed room to drive towards the edge of the D. He eventually went for goal, only to drag his left-footed shot wide of the upright.
On the half-hour mark, Leko was able to lift a cross over to the far post despite a foul on him by his marker. Johnson and Kaikai both went for it, along with two Exeter defenders, but neither Don was able to get their head to the delivery.
Leko was having another fantastic outing on the right-hand side and his run and cross led to another opportunity for the Dons with 33 minutes played – Johnson, this time, with a bouncing effort that flew past the post.
Their good start, however, was undone by a controversial refereeing decision moments later as referee Andy Haines adjudged Jules to have brought down Nombe in the area, despite the Dons man clearly getting to the ball. Despite the protests, the penalty stood and BROWN converted to give Exeter a lead against the run of play. 0-1.
In search of an instant reply, Kaikai went for goal after cutting in from the left. His effort, though, flashed wide of the post. He then delivered a cross for Eisa, which was intercepted right in front of the striker by an Exeter head.
That led to a corner from which Johnson went agonisingly close to levelling the scores. Kaikai’s delivery landed perfectly on the midfielder’s head but it bounced inches wide of the far post.
They had another corner late in stoppage time too but Maghoma, who collected the clearance, lost balance at the crucial moment and sent his shot harmlessly over the crossbar.
Eager to get themselves back into the game as early as possible, the Dons earned themselves a free-kick three minutes into the second period – Leko the man fouled after beating Jack Sparkes by the corner flag. Kaikai, however, couldn’t pick out a teammate.
The Dons were awarded another free-kick on 54 minutes, this time for a foul on Eisa. Unlike the previous set piece, this was in shooting range but Eisa got under his 30-yard try and Andresson watched it over.
An eventful 30 seconds just past the hour mark saw the Dons break forward with a 3-on-2, but not able to get a shot away, leading to a chance for Exeter only counter – Harvie, though, was able to throw himself in the way of Archie Collins’ shot.
The game continued to remain stretched and it was the visiting side who took advantage, doubling their lead with 67 minutes on the clock. BROWN was the beneficiary of a deflected pass to another teammate and, with a clear path to goal, he finished his opportunity. 0-2.
Jackson made a double change – McEachran and Conor Grant on for Devoy and Johnson - before Eisa had a quickfire opportunity to reduce the deficit but, off-balance, he couldn’t keep his right-footed shot down inside the area.
Kaikai then sent in a cross from the left which cannoned off Grant and looped over the bar. Jackson then made a third substitution, replacing Leko with fresh legs in Dean.
With eight minutes to play, McEachran picked out Jules from a deep free-kick but the defender’s header looped up and provided a simple claim for Andresson – though he did make hard work of it. Dean then had a left-footed shot blocked, after being set up by Kaikai.
Grigg and Henry Lawrence were brought on late by Jackson and Grigg did make an impact, register an effort on goal from a McEachran corner before laying on for Eisa, who poked another home shot wide of the target, summing up the Dons’ afternoon.
MK Dons: Cumming, Watson (Lawrence 89) Tucker, Eisa, Leko (Dean 77), Johnson (McEachran 67), Harvie, Kaikai (Grigg 89), Devoy (Grant 67), Jules, Maghoma.
Subs: Ravizzoli, Burns.
Booked: Devoy, Kaikai
Exeter City: Andresson, Caprice, Sparkes, Hartridge, Harper (Kite 77), Collins, Nombe (Mitchell 76), White (Stansfield 61), Brown, Sweeney, Diabate.
Subs: Lee, Aimson, Chauke, Grounds.
Goals: Brown (pen 37, 67)
Referee: A Haines
Attendance: 6,719 (614 away)