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Dons blow lead as promotion hopes fade

By Oli
March 24 2009

Crewe Alexandra come from two goals behind to earn a point at stadium:mk. Dons had taken the lead through Aaron Wilbraham and Jason Puncheon and looked to be cruising, but in one of their vital games in hand threw away three points to seriously dent their hopes of automatic promotion as two late goals earned Alex a point. Sigh. Roberto Di Matteo made two unexpected changes as well as two others but they were two that a lot of Dons fans had been calling for, as Shaun Cummings dropped out of the squad to be replaced at right-back by Carl Regan, and the always impressive Luke Howell came into midfield alongside Peter Leven. Sam Baldock was passed as fit and started in attack alongside Wilbraham, while Luke Chadwick was restored to the lineup in place of Jemal Johnson. Alan Navarro dropped to the bench and Flavien Belson out of the squad entirely.

Dons started well, Baldock causing the Crewe backline plenty of problems with his pace. MK's first chance came on four minutes when Puncheon did superbly to bring down a Leven pass and muscle his way into the area, but he volleyed over from the left.

On seven minutes came one of the Dons' best opportunities of the match, and you wondered if it was going to be one of those days (or nights). Wilbraham did well to hold the ball up on the edge of the box before slipping in Chadwick on the right side of the penalty area, who you would have expected to have gone across the goalkeeper, but went for the near post and hit the side netting.

Dons took the lead after 15 minutes, although they got a little lucky, but maybe it was a break they deserved after the goals that have gone against them in recent weeks. Puncheon slipped in Wilbraham on the right side of the box and the striker's driven effort deflected off a defender and looped over goalkeeper John Ruddy, falling into the far corner. Fortuitous, but the Dons were full value for their lead.

Puncheon had one effort saved before he doubled the Dons' lead on 19 minutes, again thanks to a large slice of good fortune. Wilbraham found Puncheon on the right and driving inside in his trademark style, his effort from distance was straight at Ruddy but spilled by the goalkeeper into the net. Dons were cruising.

Crewe threatened for the first time on 25 minutes when Alan Sheehan passed inside to Gylfi Sigurdsson, but the Icelandic midfielder shot narrowly wide of Willy Gueret's far post.

Dons saw out the rest of the half comfortably, never really getting out of second gear themselves but looking an alert side and not relenquishing possession easily. Unfortunately, it was to be a different story for the same period in the second half.

Johnson was introduced at the break in place of Chadwick, who was not enjoying his best game in a Dons shirt but whose withdrawal was probably more to do with fatigue.

Dons started the second half with a new-found freshness following the interval and after Puncheon had threatened, Johnson was played through from a ball inside the Dons half on 49 minutes. He shook off defender Julien Baudet but Ruddy was off his line quickly to meet the winger. Baldock picked up the scraps but from a tight angle on the left side of the area hit the outside of the post.

Puncheon was causing all sorts of problems but his final ball was lacking. Again he raided from the Dons right and this time picked out Wilbraham who had moved wide. The striker hit a first time ball across goal but it was just ahead of Baldock, who applauded the idea.

Sigurdsson troubled the Dons a little again on 59 minutes with a shot from the edge of the box that was well saved by Gueret. From the resulting corner Howell headed clear and Baldock found Johnson, who clean through on goal just took a little too long getting the ball out of his feet, and Danny Woodards slid across to make a superb block when he did finally attempt to pull the trigger.

Dons were looking good on the break and it was a style that was suiting the pacy Baldock, as he raced down the left after another set-piece had been cleared before finding Wilbraham at the back post, who couldn't control his half-volley.

As we hit the 70 minute mark the Dons started to relax and Crewe knew it because all of a sudden, after hardly threatening all match, they began to attack with some purpose. On 78 minutes they got their first as substitute Byron Moore twisted away from a frankly quite pathetic challenge from Dean Lewington, crossing in for Mark Carrington to head home despite being sandwiched by two Dons players. Lacklustre defending, utterly preventable goal.

The second became an inevitability. The Dons met the goal with absolutely no response and when Sheehan raced into the box Gueret needlessly came out to meet him, from where we were sat quite clearly hauling him down, although replays have shown the Leeds loanee may have gone to ground a little easier than it seemed.

Sheehan was going nowhere and so Gueret escaped with a yellow but that was zero consolation for the goalkeeper when Sigurdsson converted the spot kick.

Dons found some of the intensity that had just totally gone missing return for the last few minutes but Di Matteo and his side were simply stunned, as were the fans inside stadium:mk, of which their were 8,454. A game in hand totally thrown away and Dons' automatic promotion hopes look slimmer by the week. It's going to take a big effort now, and MK need to find not form, but the right results, and fast, simply to secure a playoff place.

Dons: Gueret 5; Regan 6, O'Hanlon 7, Llera 7, Lewington 6; Chadwick 5 (Johnson 45, 6), Leven 4, Howell 7, Puncheon 7; Wilbraham 6, Baldock 7.

Unused subs: Abbey, Gerba, Navarro, Stirling.

Booked: Gueret, O'Hanlon, Howell, Leven.

Goals: Wilbraham 15, Puncheon 19.

Crewe: Ruddy; Brayford, Baudet, Woodards, Broomes; Grant (Moore 57), Sigurdsson, Carrington, Sheehan; Pope (Miller 71), Donaldson.

Unused subs: Collis, O'Donnell, McManus.

Goals: Carrington 78, Sigurdsson 82 pen.

Attendance: 8,454.

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Dons blow lead as promotion hopes fade
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24/03/2009 23:49
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