Cambridge United suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat on the road in Sky Bet League One as MK Dons grabbed maximum points at Stadium MK...
A free-kick from Mo Eisa on the half an hour mark proved to be damaging for the U’s, whose winless run away from home continued after they were unable to muster up a response and salvage a point.
A crucial afternoon awaited for the sides who were sitting neck and neck in the drop zone with 30 points apiece and presented with the chance to potentially decrease the gap from safety to the solitary point. The U’s, who had recorded the joint-lowest tally away from home, had seen an improvement in their recent performance levels, whilst Milton Keynes contrastingly had the worst home form in the division with two wins from 17 and were winless in six.
Following the 1-1 draw against Morecambe in midweek - where the squad had remained unchanged for six successive games - Mark Bonner opted with the solitary change to his XI as Shilow Tracey replaced Joe Ironside in the attacking ranks. On the bench, Harvey Knibbs returned to the matchday squad after a month out owing to an ankle injury.
After a cautious opening 10 minutes, where the U’s kept their shape and allowed the hosts to obtain the possession, they almost made the first opportunity count when a brave interception from Tracey helped release Jack Lankester in a one-on-one position, who scampered into the box but, with arguably too much time to think, was denied by an onrushing Jamie Cumming.
Up the other end, Dimitar Mitov was forced into a smart stop on 14 when Dawson Devoy was played in at an angle on the right of the penalty area, but the Bulgarian forced a corner.
With some sharp tackles being performed and the game turning into a battle, the only notable attempt fell to the way of Dean Lewington who tested his luck from 25 yards on the eve of the half an hour mark, but it flew wide of Mitov’s left post.
A hectic period beckoned. On the 31st minute, United appeared to have taken the lead when Tracey, the thorn in MK’s defence, scampered into the final third and teed up Lankester on his left, who cut inside and nestled into the net before the linesman ruled the goal out for offside.
A few minutes after the brief pandemonium was cancelled out, Bonner’s men found themselves a goal behind after Eisa drilled an inch-perfect free-kick from 20 yards over the wall and past a diving Mitov.
Aggrieved to be behind and on the receiving end of questionable decisions, United went into the break knowing a crucial 45 minutes awaited which could be instrumental to their fortunes.
Starting in an encouraging manner, James Brophy forced a free-kick on the edge of the area on the 50th minute, with Conor McGrandles lashing the attempt over the crossbar.
Continuing to apply pressure, Liam Bennett’s 52nd minute cross was headed towards goal by Sam Smith, before a Tracey attempt on the turn was denied by a block in the next attack.
Momentum was immediately switched when the team in white almost doubled their lead after Conor Grant squared to Sullay Kaikai, whose shot was denied by Paul Digby’s critical block. Growing, Daniel Harvie sliced a strike inches over the crossbar to cue a triple substitution from Bonner.
With 72 minutes on the clock, a menacing in-swinging cross from Liam O’Neil towards Smith called Cumming into action, who pawed wide and was then at hand to collect Michael Morrison’s close-range header in the resulting corner.
After freshening up the full-backs and with the clock ticking, United had to go for the jugular by getting men forward at every attempt, but they couldn’t find that clinical pass or move to open up the hosts as they were consigned to a disappointing defeat.
Up next, the U’s welcome Charlton Athletic to the Abbey Stadium next Saturday 18th March.
MK Dons: Cumming, Watson, Tucker, Lewington (Lawrence, 65), Harvie, Maghoma, Devoy (McEachran, 65), Kaikai, Eisa (Dean, 76), Holland (Grigg, 60), Grant (Johnson, 77)
Subs Not Used: Ravizzoli, Robson
Goalscorers: Eisa (34’)
Cambridge United: Mitov, Morrison, R. Bennett (Seddon, 69), Jones, L. Bennett (Williams, 69), Digby, McGrandles (Knibbs, 58), Brophy, Lankester (O’Neil, 58), Tracey (Ironside, 58), Smith
Subs Not Used: Mannion, Worman
Bookings: Smith, Jones, Seddon, Brophy
Referee: Keith Stroud
Attendance: 11298 (2186 away fans)