DEFEAT was painfully cruel on Town - but it leaves them looking over their shoulders more nervously than ever.

Clive Platt's agonising stoppage-time winner for MK Dons places Town just seven points above the drop zone and in need of some fresh impetus.

To lose it so late was sickening for the 1,000-plus travelling fans who froze in the fierce wind which ruined the match, but throwing away leads has become a dangerous and all-too-common trait for Town over the last few months.

On this occasion, Town certainly didn't deserve it.

Any decent football played in the difficult conditions came from them, they created enough chances to win the game well and they had no luck whatsoever with crucial decisions in the match.

After Andy Booth had headed them into a 30th-minute lead with his sixth of the season, there was a clear offside as Ben Harding broke through to set up Izale McLeod for the equaliser just two minutes later.

Then, after huge penalty appeals for handball had been turned down, substitute Pawel Abbott thought he'd restored Town's lead 12 minutes from time with a flicked header from Lee Fowler's free-kick, but the offside flag went up against John McCombe as he helped the ball in at the back post.

With Abbott and Luke Beckett - in the last match of his initial loan spell from Sheffield United - missing cracking late chances as Town continued to press forward, it only increased the agony when Platt pounced.

The winner came from Fowler losing possession to Malvin Kamara on the left, although it seemed Town might escape when 17-year-old Tom Clarke, on his debut at right-back, got back to block the cross in the danger area. It wasn't to be, however, as Platt hooked home the follow-up.

If there was any consolation for Town, it came from the performances of their newest recruits to first-team action.

Adnan Ahmed, who started in midfield before shifting to left-back because of injuries, had an excellent match, winning tackles, using the ball well and pushing forward when he could.

Substitute John McCombe also revelled in the centre-back role he was handed in a first reshuffle of resources after 26 minutes, when Rob Edwards went off after a collision with Dave Mirfin, who also later went off suffering concussion.

McCombe looked solid, strong and capable and well worth consideration for a start, working soundly alongside Nathan Clarke in probably the youngest back line in club history (average age 19).

Apart from isolated scares - Paul Rachubka made a fine one-handed save from Jason Puncheon late on - it seemed the defensive efforts and hard work of midfield would pay off with a much-needed away win, but fortune favoured the Dons.

It means Town are under real pressure to win at home against Blackpool, because relegation snipers are now in range.

Next page: Man of the Match >>>

Man of the Match: Adnan Ahmed

THE 20-year-old had never played left-back before, but he deputised there in fine style for his injury-hit side, using his tackling and passing skills to good effect throughout.


Paul Rachubka Difficult day for keepers because of the strong wind. Made his best save, one handed, from Puncheon late on Rating: 6/10

Tom Clarke One or two blips, as you would expect from a lad making his debut, but generally looked at ease in the right-back slot Rating: 6/10

Rob Edwards Made the mistake of clattering into colleague Mirfin and had to leave the field suffering a bad knock to his right leg Rating: 6/10

Nathan Clarke Quickly became the elder statesman of the back line at 21 and did a pretty good job of marshalling resources Rating: 7/10

Adnan Ahmed Filled in at left-back because of injuries and had an excellent game. Used the ball well and pushed forward smartly Rating: 8/10

David Mirfin Bravely tried to carry on despite the concussion he suffered when in collision with Edwards, but simply had to go off Rating: 6/10

Chris Brandon Hard-working display in midfield and unlucky to be flagged offside when going clean through in the second half Rating: 7/10

Jon Worthington Tried a couple of long range shots and got through a lot of unselfish work in the centre, where he won some good ball Rating: 7/10

Danny Schofield Looked like the man who would create a winner for Town with his left-wing raids and dangerous crosses Rating: 7/10

Andy Booth Scored his sixth of the season with a diving header but forced off at half time suffering a groin injury. Rating: 6/10

Luke Beckett Had a good chance late on to net a sixth goal in five Town appearances, but the keeper blocked well at close quarters Rating: 6/10

Spotlight on the ref:

Leicester referee Brian Curson kept a tight rein on things and it was a pity the major decisions in the game fell to his assistants Tim Howes and Glenn Hambling.

It was the latter who decided there was no offside for MK Dons before McLeod's equaliser in the 32nd minute, while Howes gave a borderline decision against John McCombe for offside when Pawel Abbott flicked home Lee Fowler's inswinging free-kick 12 minutes from the end. Curson got both bookings correct - Mitchell for a foul on Ahmed and Abbott for dissent

MK Dons: (4-4-2) Baker; Oyedele, Pensee-Bilong, Chorley, Crooks (Puncheon 66); Small (Kamara 49), Mitchell, Harding, Lewington; Platt, McLeod. Subs not used: Smart, Herve, Palmer.