MK Dons suffered their first defeat of the season at Brunton Park as they went down 4-1 to Carlisle after an excellent performance from United’s Francois Zoko.
Zoko stole the show with a man-of-the-match performance, and unsurprisingly it was the Ivorian who opened the scoring after 42 minutes, firing the ball home past a bewildered David Martin . It was near the end of a feisty opening 45 minutes, with Dons manager Karl Robinson sent to the stands just before half time for his furious reaction to the goal.
Robinson and his players alike were incensed by referee Mark Haywood’s decision not to punish Carlisle’s Ian Harte for an apparent off-the-ball elbow on Jermain Easter. It was, in fact, Easter who the free kick was given against, and the decision seemed to knock the Dons for six, with Zoko pouncing on the seemed distraction of the Dons.
However, much worse was to follow for Robinson, as James Bennett doubled the Carlisle lead in first half stoppage time, leaving the Milton Keynes men heading down the tunnel at half time with a massive mountain to climb.
The events of the first half appeared to have unravelled far too quickly for them, with captain Dean Lewington left to rue his first half volley hitting the underside of the post and bounced on the ground. In Lampard-esque fashion, the left-back appealed that the ball had crossed the line, but the officials waved his plea away.
All in all though, it was undoubtedly Carlisle’s day, as Gary Madine soon put the game to bed with his composed volley in the box making it 3-0, before Tom Taiwo added a fourth.
Zoko also hit the post, while the Dons were left to lick their wounds after the drubbing and reflect on what might have been. Carlisle closed down well, frustrating MK in not allowing them to play their usual passing game.
But whilst Greg Abbott will have been delighted with his side’s performance, there were few positives to take from the game for Robinson. In a desperate attempt to take a positive outlook on the match for the Dons though, here are a few:
Firstly, Peter Leven’s consolation goal showed great skill and his ability from far out in the 64th minute.
The Dons now have a mouth-watering tie against Premiership new boys Blackpool on Tuesday night to help them recover, and they could perhaps be forgiven for having one eye on a cup game against top flight opposition.
Robinson should feel encouraged by the effect his substitutions had on the game, as the Dons vastly improved once Jabo Ibehre, Mathias Doumbe and Lewis Guy had come on, with Guy nearly getting on the score sheet with a volley on 72 minutes that flashed past the outside of the post.
Although the Dons may have a poor record against Carlisle, the result was an improvement on the same fixture last season, which the Dons lost 5-0.
Perhaps a few uplifting thoughts for Robinson, who now turns his attention to Blackpool at home.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.