Crewe Alexandra slipped to their first defeat in six matches at Stadium MK after Charlie Macdonald scored after just eight minutes of play, but after a slow start were made to pay for missed chances in the second half. Crewe conjured up good chances with AJ Leitch-Smith hitting the foot of the post in the opening minutes of the second period.
With Crewe unable to get hold of possession in the early exchanges of the game and after totally dominating, it was no surprise that the MK Dons took an early lead through Charlie Macdonald. He converted a low cross from Luke Chadwick to give the home side an early advantage and after hanging in there in the first period; the Railwaymen grew in confidence and had enough chances to have got something from the game in the second half.
Crewe came out a totally different outfit at the start of the second period and a more clinical AJ Leitch-Smith could have seen him carrying the match ball off. He hit the foot of the post and then missed a one-on-one with David Martin. Crewe were just missing that ruthless streak again.
With Abdul Osman ruled out with an ankle injury, Steve Davis named his new loan signing Andy Bond in the starting line-up for the trip to Stadium MK. After originally coming through the Academy ranks at the club, Bond has re-joined the club on a one-month loan deal from Colchester United and partnered captain Luke Murphy in the centre of midfield.
There was also a return to the starting line-up for Byron Moore who missed last weekend’s draw with Leyton Orient on compassionate grounds. His replacement last weekend, Brendon Daniels, returned to the substitutes’ bench. Mathias Pogba also returned to the squad after overcoming his knee injury.
The home side played keep ball from the opening whistle and Crewe found it really difficult to get hold of any real possession. MK Dons’ were patient in their build-up and were moving Crewe all over the place, as we struggled to get hold the ball in the opening minutes. The former Manchester United man Luke Chadwick, who was picking up clever positions in the gap between midfield and attack, had the first attempt blocked by Harry Davis on the edge of the Crewe box.
With Crewe giving away the ball far too cheaply, it was no real surprise that MK Dons made their early pressure count after just eight minutes. Bond and Robertson were both guilty of surrendering possession too cheaply in the initial build-up and after Chadwick was allowed to hit the by-line and cross, Charlie Macdonald was allowed to steal in and guide a low shot past Alan Martin. It may have taken a defection en route to leave the Crewe defence and the Alex goalkeeper flat-footed but it was no more than the home side had deserved after such a bright start.
MK Dons continued to play with a real fluency and confidence and Kelvin Mellor had to stand firm to deny Chadwick another shot on target after he had raced onto a lifted pass. Davis also covered superbly to deny Macdonald a clear shot at goal.
After a struggling start, Matt Tootle tried to get Crewe going and his firm through ball was unlucky not to be controlled by AJ Leitch-Smith. To try and get a grip on the ball, Tootle made inroads into the MK Dons half but his final ball into Max Clayton was a little bit tricky for him to control on the edge of the penalty area.
A rare attack then saw Max Clayton flick a Robertson cross wide of David Martin’s right hand post. With the MK Dons mostly controlling the ball and tempo if the game, the Alex were relying on a counter-attack but looked capable of mounting something with the pace of Moore and Clayton and the purpose of Tootle.
A brighter spell from the Railwaymen before half-time then saw AJ Leitch-Smith caught just offside after being played in by his partner Clayton and then Crewe having a loud shout for handball on the edge of the ball waved away after Byron Moore had flicked the ball up.
Crewe had their goalkeeper Alan Martin to thank though for keeping the MK Dons out before the half-time interval when he got down to tip a shot from Dean Bowditch around the post. Bowditch was allowed to get a shot off after following another probing run from Chadwick when coming off his wing.
Macdonald also shot just wide of the mark but Martin had shifted across his goal enough to cover. Before the interval there was a short stoppage after Leitch-Smith took a blow on the head but he was able to continue.
Leitch-Smith re-appeared for the second half and almost created an equaliser in the opening minute. His low cross reached Max Clayton but under pressure he could only screw his shot wide. It took a deflection to present Crewe with a corner and Clayton met this one but over the crossbar.
A really positive start to the second half then saw Murphy feed Leitch-Smith through on goal but after appearing to do everything right he could only poke it upon the foot of the post. It was rather unlucky but you would have backed Crewe’s leading scorer to have scored after getting into that position. From another cleared corner, Robertson’s superb delivery should have been headed home by Ellis, but he flashed his effort inches wide. Crewe had done everything but score. It was much better from the Alex.
A resurgent Crewe then saw the captain, Murphy, pull a shot wide another positive run. In reply, the MK Dons mustered a shot well wide from the impressive Darren Potter. A super run from Letich-Smith saw his trick his way past one and then see his shot deflected wide by Antony Kay.
Leitch-Smith had been really dangerous for the Alex but he missed a golden chance after being gifted an awful back pass from Adam Chicksen. Presented with possession on the edge of the box, Leitch-Smith only had the goalkeeper Martin to beat but seemed to be caught in two minds whether to round him or take it early and really did neither. It was a tame effort by his high standards and that prompted a change with the blonde striker making way for the fit-again Mathias Pogba.
It was an MK Dons substitute Daniel Powell who nearly created a second for the home side but Macdonald just missed his cross when sliding in at the far post. Crewe lost Max Clayton with a slight thigh injury, so there was another run-out for young Ryan Colclough, who was again neat and tidy on the ball.
Arguably, MK Dons’ best performer Chadwick of the afternoon made way for the on-loan Scott Allan. Chadwick had used all his experience to run tempo of the game, especially in the first half. Allan needed make Ellis pay for a lapse of concentration but Martin was equal to it to save with his feet and then grasp it. It was let off because Allan could and perhaps should have looked towards Macdonald. Moments later, Allan tried a cheeky chip over Martin but it cleared the bar by a yard.
Crewe’s last change of the afternoon saw Tootle make way for Ollie Turton. Our former striker Ryan Lowe was also given the final ten minutes as a replacement for Macdonald.
A great ball from Bond found Moore down the right and his low cross picked out Pogba superbly, but he could only fire his effort into the floor and behind for a goal kick. It had been another swift break from the Alex.
Ray Lewington nearly sealed the points with four minutes remaining but Martin was equal to his head to flick it from the line and away from danger. Crewe were hanging in there and needed that clear chance.
In the closing moments, Chicksen shot straight at Martin from 20 yards out. Pogba also bravely went in on a ball from Moore but was strangely penalised for a foot raised on goalkeeper David Martin.
There were some late bursts from the Alex but that one real chance never fell for the Railwaymen and were left to rue very good second half chances.