MK Dons manager Robbie Neilson has been sacked after his side’s 2-1 defeat to the Cobblers on Saturday.
Dons had been targeting promotion back to the Championship this season but they’ve endured a miserable campaign so far, and especially of late having won only two of their previous 17 league games, culminating in the decision to sack Neilson.
Prior to his dismissal, Neilson had hit out at the decision to send off Chuks Aneke during the closing stages of Saturday’s game after accusing Northampton of ‘targeting’ the striker in order to prevent him from taking a last-gasp free-kick.
Trailing 2-1 in the final of four added minutes, Dons were awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the Town penalty box and Aneke would have been favourite to take it before he given his marching orders for his part in some argy-bargy that also involved John-Joe O’Toole.
With Aneke off the pitch, Marcus Tavernier instead rifled an effort through the wall but Cobblers goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell pulled off a superb flying save to keep Northampton’s slender lead intact and ensured they came away with a crucial victory.
Neilson said: “I think they targeted him because he’s the main free-kick taker and it’s 20 yards out in stoppage-time and that’s clever on their part.
“Having watched it on the video and having had a chat with the referee, I hope he reviews it and the referee admits he’s maybe overstepped the mark and made a mistake.
“He said that O’Toole was booked for talking to him in an aggressive manner. It was two players who grabbed each other by the neck.
“We’ve had him a few times this season and he’s quite a good referee and sometimes you hope that they have the strength to admit they’ve made a mistake because there’s no doubt he has if he’s saying he saw a punch thrown. It’s a player’s career and he’s an important player for us. We’ll miss him.”
On the game itself, which dropped Dons into the relegation zone, Neilson added: “The result is disappointing. We brought a big following here and we didn’t get the result we wanted.
I think they targeted him because he’s the main free-kick taker and it’s 20 yards out in stoppage-time and that’s clever on their part. I hope the referee admits he’s made a mistake.
“At times we played some good football and we created a lot of opportunities but we shot ourselves in the foot with the two goals we conceded so that was disappointing.
“I thought we played very well first-half and we were by far the dominant team but we created chances and didn’t take them and then got hit by the sucker-punch.
“They looked to kill the game in the second-half. They sat in, killed time and tried to hit us on the counter. We didn’t play as well as we did in the first-half but we created a number of chances in the last five or 10 minutes.
“Obviously I didn’t want to drop into the relegation zone. We didn’t envisage at the start of the season and we have to face the reality of it and the fact we’re in the battle at the bottom and we need to get out of it.”