In a match that was almost a carbon copy of last season's fixture, a gallant Crewe Alexandra slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Stadium: MK. The on-loan Chelsea youngster Patrick Bamford scored the only goal of the game on 20 minutes after full-back Jason Banton had left Kelvin Mellor down the Crewe right to create the goal.
Crewe, inspired by a confident performance by youngster Ryan Colclough were certainly the better side in the second half and deserved a share of the spoils with the MK Dons goakeeper David Martin making good saves to deny our Man-of-the-Match Colclough and sub Michael West.
Crewe can take great confidence from the second period but had nothing to show for their efforts against one of the teams expected to be in the top six at the end of the season.
Steve Davis named an unchanged starting XI for the third successive game but there were places on the substitutes’ bench for defenders Adam Dugdale and Gregor Robertson.
The home side went straight for the jugular from the kick-off and the Crewe captain Abdul Osman conceded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area within 50 seconds. Osman tussled with Patrick Bamford to concede the offence, but thankfully the on loan Chelsea midfielder fired his tame shot straight into a solid wall.
With the ball still loose though, Kelvin Mellor did exceedingly well to rush out of the box and block a follow up shot from Anthony Kay. The home side’s first real effort on Alan Martin’s goal came from midfielder Stephen Gleeson but the Crewe goalkeeper was right behind it.
The impressive Bamford must have thought he had scored after he had stole in behind the Crewe back line to face Martin. The youngster Dele Alli produced a flash of skill in the build-up to cut the ball back for Bamford but with Martin rushing from his goal line, he could only lift his shot up and over the crossbar. It appeared to clip the woodwork on the way over. Gleeson then forced Martin into a smart save from another free-kick from distance.
Crewe were given the freedom to play some football though and Chuks Aneke found the advanced Matt Tootle in the left hand channel and his cut back towards Ryan Colclough found the winger but he couldn’t get a clean enough contact on his shot.
Colclough then produced a fantastic and direct run to take him into the MK Dons box but he was crowded out at the crucial moment and had to settle for a corner.
The deadlock as broken after 20 minutes after the MK Dons full-back Jason Banton was positive enough to turn his way past Kelvin Mellor and then surprisingly leave the Crewe defender for pace. With Mellor trailing in his wake, Banton had time to find the near post run of the on-loan Chelsea youngster Bamford and he guided it home from close range.
Both sides continued to have periods of good possession but the flow of the game was interrupted by a clash of heads between Darren Potter and Aneke. Both players were okay to continue after treatment.
When play resumed, Crewe were certainly entitled to ask a question of referee Rob Lewis, when Max Clayton appeared to be pulled back by Kay as he tried to latch onto a long ball. The ball would have probably run behind the by-line, as it did, but Kay certainly took a risk.
Ray conceded a cheap free-kick on the edge of the penalty area and was relieved to see Darren Potter curl his effort just wide of the target. Crewe were also fortunate that Banton didn’t head at goal at the far post, instead electing to head back across goal for a team-mate. Ray was able to clear.
Crewe did look dangerous from Leitch-Smith’s dead balls with both Ray and Davis causing some problems inside the MK Dons box with their aerial ability but the MK Dons goalkeeper David Martin was not being tested enough. Osman found Colclough with an instant and crisp pass and his low pull-back was fired wide by Clayton. It was better from Crewe.
Crewe just about dealt with a stoppage time corner to go in at the interval 1-0 down with George Baldock acrobatically shooting wide.
The second half nearly saw Anthony Grant release Leitch-Smith but his visionary pass was cut out by Kay.
Another free-kick, this time conceded by Harry Davis, saw the Crewe defender booked. On this occasion Shaun Williams floated free-kick was pushed out by Martin and when the ball was turned back across the six-yard box, the covering Mellor did tremendously well to deny Potter a simple tap-in.
On 54 minutes, AJ Leitch-Smith produced another wonderful delivery from a free-kick to this time pick out George Ray, but under pressure the lanky centre-half couldn’t quite direct his header on target. Crewe were getting some joy from set-plays.
Baldock was booked for tripping Colclough and another Leitch-Smith free-kick found Davis at the far post but his shot on the turn was blocked. The game was beginning to become a little more open.
Aneke found Colclough again in a good position and his clever little pass invited Matt Tootle to shoot but his shot was just a touch high to force David Martin into a save.
On 67 minutes, Steve Davis made a double change with Ollie Turton and Vadaine Oliver replacing AJ Leitch-Smith and Max Clayton. MK Dons also made a change with Luke Chadwick coming on for Banton.
Mellor made another fine block to deny Alli a shot on target and Dave Martin had to rush from his goal to prevent Oliver from reaching a pass from Grant. Colclough stole in behind and went down under a challenge from Williams but the referee waved away the appeals.
Grant, who certainly put in a good shift in central midfield was withdrawn for Michael West. West and Turton were involved to find Mellor down the wing, and his deep cross found Tootle but he couldn’t keep his header down enough to trouble Martin. It was Crewe looking the more likely at his stage.
Dalli though tested the reflexes of Martin with a well struck shot from 25 yards before the Alex boss was incensed when Colclough was clattered by the MK Dons goalkeeper David Martin. Colclough needed treatment and the Crewe players had a good shout for a penalty.
The impressive Bamford made way for Izale McLeod. He was instantly involved in the action, breaking the offside trap but Davis performed an inch perfect challenge to deny him a clear run at goal.
With five minutes left on the clock, Turton did well on the edge of the box to keep the ball alive and his pass into Aneke was quickly flicked onto Vadaine Oliver. His clever little pass around the corner found Colclough in space and his well struck shot was superbly tipped over by an alert Martin.
Moments later, as Crewe continued to press looking for an equaliser they deserved, Davis had a header cleared from the line. Colclough, Crewe's most impressive performer then got to the by-line and his cut-back found West but his low shot was blocked.
In the final minute, West then produced a splendid volley that went unfortunately into the gloves of Martin. At the other end, McLeod curled out just wide of the target.