MK Dons Stutter at Morecambe But They’re Still Well and Truly in the Promotion Race

MK Dons manager Paul Tisdale during the Sky Bet League 2 match between Macclesfield Town and MK Dons at the Moss Rose Stadium, Macclesfield on Saturday 9th March 2019. (Photo by Tim Markland/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Perhaps it was premature to assume that MK Dons had fully turned a corner in their League Two campaign. Paul Tisdale’s side were on a run of five consecutive wins before last night’s defeat at Morecambe but, prior to that, they had been on an awful spell that had seen them win just twice in ten games.

However, the result last night along with the others they have achieved recently bears similarity to their last promotion campaign, when they were League One runners-up in 2014/15 (more specifically, a 4-2 loss at Gillingham in February was closely followed by an 11-game unbeaten streak to close the season). All is not lost in their quest for an immediate return to the third division, so long as they don’t repeat their mistakes of last night.

MK Dons Still in Promotion Race Despite Morecambe Stutter

Seaside Storm Proves a Step Too Far

Much had been made of the fact that MK Dons could have made it six wins in a row last night, something they hadn’t achieved in 11 years. However, the conditions at the Globe Arena in Morecambe were something that no manager could ever prepare for.

Storm Gareth was battering the country during the game, and the low stands at the ground saw the wind flowing right across the pitch – something that the home side took far better advantage of than the Dons as the Shrimps ran out 4-2 winners.

That’s not to say the weather was entirely at fault for the rather unexpected scoreline given both teams’ positions in the table, as the first goal was certainly down to Morecambe taking the game to Milton Keynes and sensing the opportunity for an upset. Richie Bennet headed in an opener that goalkeeper Stuart Moore will be bitterly disappointed to concede given the fact there was no power behind it at all.

Wind-Assisted

The second goal on the stroke of half-time, though, had everything to do with the dire conditions. Zak Mills picked the ball up on the right and sent a dangerous cross into the area which, with no wind behind it, would probably have landed somewhere near the D, but when Ouss Cisse only managed to get the top of his head to it, the wind caught hold of the ball and rocketed it over Moore. It was a bitterly disappointing goal to concede, but more so because of how unlucky it was rather than there being any defensive error to it.

The Dons went straight on the attack after this and almost halved the deficit within a minute of the restart. Jake Hesketh worked his way into the box and his shot had Mark Halstead beaten but, after bouncing on the line, the wind picked up once more and dragged the ball wide. If the Dons needed a sign that it wasn’t going to be their evening, they got two of them in the two minutes leading up to the break.

Game Killer

The Dons came out after the break looking far more comfortable, now with the violent wind in their favour. They launched long balls into the Morecambe area but the home side seemed to be able to deal with it much better – perhaps these conditions are more common up by the Irish Sea than in north Buckinghamshire.

With Tisdale’s men unable to take advantage of the gust, it opened them up to more problems as the other end, and the scoreline did get worse just before the hour mark. Maybe the defence could have closed him down quicker, if you’re being picky, but there was nothing Moore could do about a stunning Bennett strike from the edge of the area to make it three and effectively kill the game.

Enter Agard

Paul Tisdale had sprung a surprise by leaving top-scorer Kieran Agard on the bench for this one. Instead, he opted for a front three of Chuks Aneke, Hesketh and David Wheeler, who opened his account for the club in the weekend win over Macclesfield Town.

Tisdale remarked after the game that this was not to give Agard a rest, but more to try and play to the conditions of the game, if that was at all possible.

Agard is a man in form though, and it can now only be guessed what the game would have been like had he been on the pitch from the start, especially considering the impact he made in this one. Just 11 minutes after coming on for Hesketh, he reduced the arrears when he stuck his foot onto Alex Gilbey‘s low shot and looped it into the top corner, over Halstead.

This sparked the Dons into life, and they looked like a side that were unbeaten in five coming into this one. That was consolidated six minutes later when Agard turned in his second of the game. A cross from the left was fumbled by Halstead and, after an almighty scramble, the striker prodded home.

Defeated

As the Dons went forward in search of a miraculous equaliser, the hosts took advantage of the space they were leaving at the back. A hopeful ball forward from Jordan Houghton was poked back over the halfway line by Kevin Ellison and, with no defence there to challenge him, Aaron Collins ran through and rounded Moore to cap off an excellent win that does Morecambe’s survival hopes the world of good, while the Dons drop back into the play-off places on goal difference.

Mansfield Town’s draw away at Crawley means they are now level with MK on points, with Bury five ahead of the pair in second. It’s looking more and more like a battle for third place in League Two for the Dons, but they’ll be sure to take anything that gets them back into the third tier.

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