Town were unable to round 2016 off on a high after falling to a 3-2 defeat away at MK Dons earlier this evening.
Kieran Agard showed quick instincts to give the hosts a dream start to proceedings, and he wasted little time in adding to his and MK’s tally to put his side firmly in the driving seat.
But the Robins were handed some hope before the interval courtesy of Luke Norris, who pounced on a mistake by David Martin to reduce the deficit.
Nicky Maynard restored the Dons’ two-goal cushion early in the second-half but Raphael Rossi-Branco’s header ensured the Reds had everything to play for in the closing stages.
However, despite their best efforts, they were unable to grab an equaliser late on with MK holding on for the win.
Town made two changes with Michael Doughty dropping to the bench and Yaser Kasim missing out altogether.
Conor Thomas came into the heart of the midfield and Jon Obika returned from injury to take his place out on the left-flank.
After showing signs of promise in their last two outings, Luke Norris and Jermaine Hylton once again led the line together and James Brophy was fit enough to earn a place amongst the subs.
It was the home side who attempted to land the first blow inside the opening few minutes but Nicky Maynard could only flick a header wide.
Ed Upson’s drive from distance forced a superb stop from Lawrence Vigouroux, although the Town stopper was unable to prevent the Dons from opening the scoring just shy of the ten-minute mark.
Maynard cracked a stunning strike against the crossbar and Kieran Agard was in the right place at the right time to bundle home from close-range with Vigouroux stranded.
MK began to turn the screw and were putting Town under intense pressure with Agard being denied at the near post before Samir Carruthers sliced a volley well wide.
Town attempted to get back into the game and enjoyed a brief spell of pressure thanks to some sterling work from Luke Norris, but they were unable to break down a stubborn Dons’ backline.
And it got worse for the Robins 26 minutes in after Agard was picked out perfectly inside the area from Chuks Aneke, before slotting home his second goal of the evening.
It was nearly 3-0 moments later as Aneke stabbed wide from Ben Reeves’ cross before the Reds were dealt a blow as Nathan Thompson was forced off with an injury, with James Brophy his replacement.
But Town didn’t let that affect them and they were back in the game ten minutes before half-time.
Dons’ stopper David Martin made a hash of Darnell Furlong’s deep delivery and Norris was able to squeeze the ball home at the back post.
The game had exploded into life by this point and Vigouroux had to be at his best again at the other end to push out Maynard’s volley.
The former Bristol City striker then saw his shot deflected behind for a corner before Aneke went even closer as his strike fizzed inches wide.
Tom Smith thumped a volley over the bar after Brophy’s cross was only half-cleared before Reeves hammered a venomous effort back off the crossbar, which proved to be the final action of an end-to-end first-half.
MK made a positive start after the break as only a good block from Jon Obika prevented Reeves from hitting the target.
minute after Maynard slotted home from a tight angle.rdHowever, Town failed to heed their warning and they were unable to stop their hosts from adding a third in the 53
Aneke tried to get in on the act but could only curl over before John Goddard replaced Conor Thomas as the Reds looked to claw their way back into the game.
And they did just that past the hour mark following a string of corners, Raphael Rossi-Branco seeing his header fly past Martin into the back of the net seconds after seeing an effort tipped over the bar by the Dons’ keeper.
Vigouroux then did well to hold on to Maynard’s shot after the striker swivelled before letting fly.
Norris saw his effort blocked and Maynard’s low drive was smothered by Vigouroux, before Goddard had a golden opportunity to salvage a share of the spoils at the death but his shot brought a stunning save from Martin with MK holding on to claim the three points.
TEAMS AND STATS:
SCORERS - Kieran Agard (9, 26), Luke Norris (35), Nicky Maynard (53), Raphael Rossi-Branco (66).
MK DONS - Martin; Lewington (C), Downing, Walsh, B Williams; Upson, Carruthers, Reeves, Aneke (Daniel Powell 68); Agard (Ryan Colclough 78), Maynard (Kabongo Tshimanga 87).
Subs Not Used - Nicholls, GC Williams, Hendry.
TOWN - Vigouroux; Rossi-Branco, Thompson (C) (James Brophy 34), Jones; Furlong, Thomas (John Goddard 58), Smith, Murray, Obika; Hylton, Norris.
Subs Not Used - Henry, Barry, Rodgers, Doughty, Delfouneso.
Referee - Ben Toner
TOWN - Luke Norris, Raphael Rossi-Branco.
ATTENDANCE - 9,385 (1,087 Town Fans).