MK Dons were beaten 1-0 by Harrogate Town on a frustrating afternoon at Stadium MK.
A first-half own goal proved the difference in the Sky Bet League Two contest as Graham Alexander’s men saw their winless run in league football extend to five games.
Head Coach Alexander initially made one change to his side, with Daniel Harvie replacing an absent Dean Lewington. however, a late withdrawal from Cameron Norman saw Brooklyn Ilunga come into the side. Matthew Dennis took the vacant spot amongst the substitutes.
Joe Tomlinson, who shifted over to the right wing-back position in place of Norman, was involved early, finding Ellis Harrison in the box. Harrison looked to tee up his striker partner, Mo Eisa, but the ball in was played behind the intended target.
Eisa was picked out by Tomlinson minutes later and he forced Mark Oxley into a terrific diving save – the Harrogate goalkeeper showing great reflexes to get his left hand on Eisa’s goal-bound effort.
A cross from Ilunga on seven minutes allowed Payne the opportunity to set up Tomlinson, whose left-footed try was blocked by the head of Rod McDonald. The Harrogate defender then got in the way of Eisa’s curling strike, diverting the attempt wide of the target.
Eisa was able to get his shot through a crowd of Harrogate players from the resulting corner but he was, again, denied by Oxley, diving to his left. The Dons went close from another corner a quarter of an hour in, but O’Hora stabbed over after Anthony Stewart’s knockdown.
Harrogate threatened for the first time shortly after but Sam Folarin wasn’t able to connect with a teammate after driving into the MK Dons penalty area. Alexander’s men responded by working a shooting opportunity for Harvie, who saw his 25-yard strike kept out by Oxley.
It took a vital interception from Tomlinson, inside his own area, to prevent Abraham Odoh meeting Matty Daly’s low cross on 23 minutes. Tomlinson was then involved in an attacking sense, getting his head to Harvie’s cross – Oxley, though, made the save for Harrogate.
With just under half an hour played, Tomlinson found himself in acres of spaces over on the right-hand side. He delivered a deep cross to the far post but Gilbey was unable to make anything of it.
The visitors broke forward on the half-hour mark but saw Folarin denied by Craig MacGillivray, who made his first save of the game. Tomlinson then tried his luck once again for the Dons, firing a left-footed strike just past the post from 30 yards.
MacGillivray was called into action again on 37 minutes, doing well to keep Kayne Ramsay’s effort from finding his top right-hand corner. The visitors then took the lead five minutes before half-time – a freak moment which saw MacGillivray’s clearance crash against O’Hora and fizz back into the unguarded Dons net. 0-1.
In search of an equaliser, Alexander’s side worked the ball immediately into the Harrogate area. Harrison did well initially before going down under a challenge – referee Martin Coy waved away the appeals for a penalty.
Harrison then inadvertently got in the way of Ilunga’s strike, but almost made up for it from the corner which followed soon after – his header, though, landed just wide of the far post.
The Dons returned for the second half with Jack Tucker on in place of Stewart. They had the half’s first effort on goal – a 20-yard attempt from Payne which was blocked by a Harrogate defender on the edge of his box.
Harvie worked his way into the area on 55 minutes but Oxley claimed his angled effort on goal. He had another go just before the hour – a left-footed strike from 25 yards which flashed just wide of the post.
A bending effort from Harrison was off target in the 67th minute. Eisa then got a head to Tomlinson’s cross but wasn’t able to direct it goalwards.
Alexander went to his bench a minute later to add Jonathan Leko to his attack and Conor Grant to his midfield - Williams and O’Hora were the two players who made way. Leko was involved right away, working space for a shot but unable to keep his effort down from the edge of the D.
Payne let fly from range but Anthony O’Connor got his head in the way for the visitors, who were camping deep inside their own half, trying to protect their lead. Alexander then rolled the dice again, introducing Max Dean in place of Harrison.
MacGillivray prevented Matty Daly from doubling the advantage on the counter attack, with a save down to his left. At the other end, Payne volleyed wide when a ball fell to him, 20 yards from goal.
There were six minutes added on at the end of the 90 but the Dons were unable to muster a chance to draw level before the final whistle sounded.
MK Dons: MacGillivray, O’Hora (Grant 68), Williams (Leko 68), Gilbey, Harrison (Dean 81), Eisa, Payne, Tomlinson, Ilunga, Harvie, Stewart (Tucker 46).
Subs: Kelly, Robson, Dennis.
Booked: Williams, Alexander, Ilunga, Dean
Harrogate Town: Oxley, Falkingham (Burrell 82), Thomson (J Daly 81), Odoh, M Daly, Folarin (March 65), O’Connor, McDonald, Sutton (Cornelius 75), Ramsay, Gibson.
Subs: Thomas, Muldoon, Foulds.
Goal: O’Hora OG (40)
Referee: M Coy
Attendance: 5,251 (138 away)