MK Dons 1, Norwich City 0
Glenn Roeder suffered a severe case of déjà vu as his third attempt to record a cup win for Norwich City came unstuck at the footballing brand that is MK Dons. That City are now out of the Carling Cup may matter little in the long run for Roeder. What will concern him is that his much-vaunted new-look side are struggling to get their acts together.
Glenn Roeder suffered a severe case of déjà vu as his third attempt to record a cup win for Norwich City came unstuck at the footballing brand that is MK Dons.
That City are now out of the Carling Cup may matter little in the long run for Roeder, whose previous cup experience for City was the third round failures against Bury last January.
What will concern him is that, heading into an important home game against Blackpool on Saturday, his much-vaunted new-look side are struggling to get their acts together.
Yes, it's only two games - but Saturday's opener was against an otherwise toothless and average Coventry side, while tonight's was against a team who were playing League Two football last season.
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It was game over midway through the first half as the Dons did what City are finding so hard - hit the back of the net - but the blow to the Canaries' confidence will be as harmful as their exit from a competition which is testing managers imaginations when it comes to giving reasons for leaving out their best players.
Roeder made four changes to the team which lost at Coventry on the opening day, with his impressive new central defensive partnership of John Kennedy and Dejan Stefanovic among the absentees, replaced by Saturday's full-backs, Elliott Omozusi and Jason Shackell. Jon Otsemobor was recalled to right back, with Adam Drury making his first appearance after 10 months out through injury.
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City's problems in front may have prompted two major changes, with Jamie Cureton on the bench alongside Lee Croft and Omar Koroma making his first start in attack, with Darel Russell recalled from the bench.
Troy Archibald-Henville was named on the seven-strong bench, along with Academy product Damon Lathrope
Dons' right-winger Mark Wright immediately gave Drury something to think about, slinging in a good looking cross form the right flank, David Marshall gathering safely, while his partner on the other flank, Jemal Johnson was unlucky not to earn a corner when challenged by Shackell.
City earned their first corner on four minutes, a Lupoli back-heel on the left giving Wes Hoolahan the space to get in a cross which didn't quite reach Russell.
It set up a good early chance for City, Fotheringham's flag kick finding the head of Koroma who charged in from the edge of the area but put his effort wide of the target - on reflection he will feel as he did after his miss on Saturday: that he could have done much better.
City started off passing the ball as they did at the weekend, but Russell might have done better with a shot on seven minutes after good work alongside Hoolahan while Lupoli's left-foot shot moments later was blocked by Jude Stirling for a corner.
While most of the early play was in front of Willy Gueret's goal, it was Marshall who was the nervous keeper on 10 minutes, when the ball fell kindly to Aaron Wilbraham after a spot of head tennis on the edge of the City area - only for the striker to blast his right-foot shot way over the crossbar.
City were looking good going forward in the early stages at least - although that's just what we all thought at Coventry on Saturday. But Hoolahan got as close as anyone had done at the Ricoh after Russell's neat back-heel gave him a sight of goal and he came up with a left-footer from the edge of the area which Gueret saved well, if not a little over-elaborately, to his right.
If proof were needed that Kennedy and Stefanovic will be the first choice centre-halves this season, it came on 15 minutes when Dons left back Dean Lewington spotted a gaping hole in the City area, and knocked the ball in to Sam Baldock - who slipped just as he was about the pull the trigger, allowing Shackell to clear.
A quick throw on 26 minutes had City in trouble at the back, but Otsemobor's speed got him to Johnson quicker than the Dons' winger might have thought possible, and the danger was speedily dealt with.
However, it was a sign of the Dons' growing confidence as they refused to be pulled out of position by City's passing game - and began to impose their own style on a game which City had bossed in the opening quarter.
After a quiet spell, City burst into life on the half hour mark when Hoolahan found Koroma in the inside right position. The youngster took a touch but it was a strong one and Gueret immediately spotted his chance and blocked the shot.
The Dons hit back, Baldock putting a shot wide from a narrow angle before, on 34 minutes, he was found by Keith Andrews on the left of the area - and needed just a couple of steps before putting it over Marshall and into the back of the net.
On the balance of play, perhaps Norwich could have few complaints - their hosts had clearly come back into the game and were on level pegging in that respect. Once again, it was a case of one team taking their chances and one team failing to - and once again City were the guilty men.
City were soon under pressure again, Dons forcing four corners within the space of a couple of minutes as they went for a second that would ask huge questions of the visitors.
After the early promise of the half, it was threatening to finish on a very different note: City were nowhere near a dominant force and rather than flexing their muscles against their League One opponents they were being outmuscled.
Roeder could be forgiven for throwing a few tea cups around at half-time - but the second half would prove how attentive his players had been at the break.
t Half-time: MK Dons 1, Norwich City 0
Fortunately for City, Baldock missed an opening two minutes into the half after good work by Wilbraham had set him free, with Shackell doing enough to put him off his stride.
At the other end Koroma was inches away from taking advantage of Danny Swailes' back-header to his keeper, but Gueret snatched it away in the kick of time.
Baldock clipped one over the bar on 50 minutes after Wilbraham created the chance by stepping over Luke Howell's pass into the area - the sort of imaginative move which seemed beyond City.
Omozusi did well to deny Baldock, but while it set up a chance for Koroma at the other end, the Pompey loan player skewed his effort horribly wide - and right in front of the 2,000-plus Norwich fans whose reaction suggested they were becoming frustrated at their team's efforts.
Roeder made his first changes on 57 minutes, Croft and Cureton replacing Hoolahan and Koroma - and suddenly those City fans roared into life again. Croft's first touches gained him lots of room - he passed left to Russell and the midfielder curled in a cracking right-foot shot from the edge of the area which crashed against an upright. There was life in City yet - all it needed was a goal as proof.
Stirling did well to dispossess Cureton in the area as City pressed again, pushing MK back deep into their own half and waiting patiently for an opening - although a well-organised defence was proving mean on that front.
Lupoli was replaced by Matty Pattison on 68 minutes with Russell moving up front, Roeder hoping for a repeat of his two-goal pre-season performance against Colchester - although a wayward effort with his left foot wasn't part of the plan.
Nor was Croft's toe poke straight at the keeper from six yards with five minutes remaining - although by then Roeder was probably thinking that extra time was the last thing he needed.
t Result: MK Dons 1, Norwich City 0
t MK Dons: Gueret, Howell, Stirling, Lewington, Swailes (O'Hanlon 64), Andrews, Leven, Wright (Regan 80), Johnson (Sturm 71), Baldock, Wilbraham.
Subs: Abbey, Navarro, Gallen.
Goals: Baldock 34
Bookings: Leven, 52, persistent fouling
t Norwich City: Marshall 6, Otsemobor 5, Drury 5, Shackell 6, Omozusi 7, Clingan 6, Hoolahan 7 (Croft 57, 6), Fotheringham 5, Russell 7, Lupoli 5 (Pattison 68, 6), Koroma 6 (Cureton 57, 6).
Subs: Chadwick, Nelson, Archibald-Henville, Lathrope.
t Att: 6,261 (2,103 City fans)