Stevenage fell to a 4-1 defeat to MK Dons at stadiummk this afternoon.
Despite falling 3-0 behind to a rampant Dons, Boro regrouped and pulled one back before the break. Whilst the hosts extended their lead with a second half penalty, Boro kept plugging away and created several good opportunities in an improved yet reward-less second half performance.
Graham Westley made three changes to the team that started last weekend’s game against Carlisle with Sam Wedgbury, Lee Hills and Jimmy Smith coming in for Oumare Tounkara, David Gray and Jordan Burrow, the latter two of whom were not in the match day 16. There was a place on the bench however for Don Cowan after his recent return to the club. Luke Freeman led the line up front.
Backed by a noisy contingent behind one goal, Stevenage created the first chance of the game after just two minutes when Michael Doughty latched onto a bouncing ball forward but could only fire over with his left foot.
The hosts responded with early efforts of their own for Alli and Bamford in the opening 10 minutes but soon found themselves 1-0 up just two minutes later. After Dunne was harshly adjudged to have blocked a player illegally just outside the box, Shaun Williams swung in a free-kick and Bamford headed home off the post.
Boro pushed forward and looked to play the Dons at their own possession game when possible but within 10 minutes the lead was doubled – a flowing MK move was neatly tucked home by Bamford for his second.
Stevenage were shell-shocked and a minute later it got worse, Dele Alli somehow poking home inside the box to give MK Dons a 3-0 lead.
Karl Robinson’s men smelt blood and Anthony Kay’s header from a Williams free-kick forced Chris Day to tip over for a corner. Bamford, on a hat-trick, then headed over from a Danny Green cross but as half-time approached Boro struck back.
Freeman persisted down the left wing, tricked his way past Kay and fired in a low cross which Darren Potter could only divert past David Martin for an own goal. It was a much-needed lifeline and gave the visitors hope as they went into the half-time break 3-1 down.
Graham Westley made a change at half-time with Don Cowan coming on for Lee Hills and Roarie Deacon moving to left-back.
Boro dealt well with some early MK Dons pressure at the start of the second half with Peter Hartley heading a dangerous cross behind under pressure from Bamford. The visiting defence then dealt comfortably with the resulting corner.
Stevenage went up the other end and when Freeman won the ball and found Tansey in space the midfielder advanced before firing over Martin's bar from the edge of the box.
Bamford headed just wide from a Williams free-kick but unfortunately their three-goal lead was restored on the hour - Shaun Williams firing past Chris Day from the penalty spot after the referee adjudged Wedgbury to have fouled in the box.
Straight from the kick-off Boro flooded forward and when Freeman jinked his way into the box and went down under pressure another penalty looked certain to be given. The referee had other ideas and waved played on, much to the disbelief of the Boro players and fans.
Oumare Tounkara came on for Jimmy Smith with 20 minutes left as Westley changed to a two-man attack. It led to a much more even period of the game with both teams enjoying possession without really creating any further chances.
With eight minutes remaining Boro went so close to a second. James Dunne intercepted possession in the middle of the park and fed Freeman on the left. With players flooding into the box Freeman opted to take a low shot himself which beat Martin but - just as happened against Carlisle last weekend - it hit the post and went out for a goal-kick.
Moments later Tounkara forced Martin into a smart save at his near post as Boro kept up their pressure. The Frenchman then had a glorious opportunity to reduce the deficit in the dying minutes when he went through on goal. It was a tight angle and he slotted it past the 'keeper but also the far post.
Whilst the victory lifts Dons up to 6th, results elsewhere meant Boro drop to 20th - a position they will look to improve on when Coventry visit The Lamex Stadium next Saturday afternoon.
MK Dons: Martin, Hodson, Kay, Williams, Lewington, Potter (Reeves 81), Gleeson, Green, Alli (McLeod 79), Chadwick (Powell 68), Bamford
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Smith, Baldock
Boro: Day, Wedgbury, Ashton, Hartley, Hills (Cowan 46), Smith (Tounkara 68), Doughty (Shroot 90), Dunne, Tansey, Deacon, Freeman
Subs not used: Arnold, Jones, Heslop, Lopez
Ref: Andy Woolmer (Northants)