Oxford United's fantastic unbeaten run was finally ended when a Joe Mason goal gave MK Dons a 1-0 win at Stadium MK this afternoon. Last time United lost the government had no majority and Steve Smith was still in, but Mason's second half goal was enough to divide the teams in a tough encounter that gave the home side their first win in 12 attempts too.
Backed by a magnificent 2,850 fans, the U’s looked composed and untroubled throughout a quiet first half, with the highlight the return of Cameron Brannagan from injury; one early cross sliding wide from the brow of Rob Dickie before Brannagan settled down to his usual industrious self with no sign of a problem after his enforced lay off with a knee injury.
The home side may be struggling at the wrong end of the table but look determined to try and play their way out of danger, Mason whipping one early effort wide and the whole side trying to move the ball quickly and keep possession - they had 60 per cent of it in the first 45 minutes without doing much with it - despite United closing them down quickly.
However, with Mousinho and Dickie in unseasonably mean mood there was stalemate for much of a neat if unspectacular first half and Jordan Archer made it to 135 minutes of his Oxford career without truly having a shot to save.
That’s a good thing by the way, because United had ground their way through the half and been solid without being at their fluent best and with their fans doing their best to lift them, they began to grow into the game after the break in a more threatening 4-3-3 shape.
The Dons had seen more of the ball though and on the hour were a goal ahead when Mason wriggled his way into space inside the area and thumped it into the roof of the net to give Archer no chance at all and put the home side ahead. Nobody's fault and no real argument with the scoreline at that stage: could United respond?
They gave it a good go, raising the tempo and intensity and Jamie Mackie upping the work rate and holding the ball to bring others into play. There were shouts for penalties after Fosu was tripped and a Brannagan drive appeared to hit a stray hand but ref Kettle refused to blow and United's frustration grew as the home side clung on to their coupon buster.
No shortage of effort and no disgrace in finally losing after 11 league games but no late drama this time and, finally, defeat.
Take the positives - the return of Brannagan and sub Shandon Baptiste - and move on. Next up? The Champions of England. See you Wednesday.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher and Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA