Barnsley boss Danny Wilson warned his side against getting dragged into a relegation dogfight after they slipped to yet another frustrating defeat on the road.
Two goals in seven second half minutes condemned the misfiring Reds to a fifth successive away league defeat.
Wilson’s men have now not won away in the league for nearly three months, with their last away league win having been against Sheffield United back on Saturday 1st November.
And no matter how well Wilson tries to calm nerves at Oakwell – and give hope to the club’s disgruntled supporters – the Reds are now in serious trouble.
Defeat saw them fall to 18th in the table, just two points above the relegation places with 21 games remaining to turn their failing season around.
There is of course time remaining to quell any thoughts of a second relegation in as many seasons but, as Wilson rightly pointed out, the Reds have got to start delivering as soon as possible.
“We don’t want to get dragged into a dogfight at the bottom, of course we don’t,” stressed Wilson.
“We want to make sure we’re more than comfortable looking up the table – and it’s got to change soon.
“We’ve got a home game next weekend, so let’s hope we can start their in that respect.
“We were in some fantastic positions, but again we’ve just frittered them away.
“Next time we need to make sure we’re clinical with our decision making.”
But despite a fourth defeat in five matches in all competitions, Wilson remains resolute that the Reds can improve.
He added: “We’ve got a great chance of grinding something out of the next few games.
“We’ve got to maintain that belief. We’ve come to one of the best teams in the division and made a decent shout of it.
“They’ll [MK Dons] probably think they dictated the back end of the game, but that was only after they’d scored.
“The first goal always changes the complexion of the game, but the period leading up to it was arguably our best period of the game. There wasn’t a lot to choose between the two teams up until them.
“We were comfortable in the first half and nothing much troubled us and we counter-attacked very well at times, although we didn’t make the most of those situations.
“But then in the second half a ball gets headed out of the box and we’ve not got to that first ball. He’s [Dele Alli] miss-hit it and it’s gone into the bottom corner [for their opening goal].
“Their confidence is up then and then we’ve made a mistake with a diagonal ball over the back [of the defence] and they’ve scored again.
“It was always going to be really difficult after that because.
“We’ve always said that you have to deal with the minor details in games because, if you don’t then it costs you. We haven’t got to the second ball well and that has cost us.”
Wilson made two changes for the trip to Stadium:MK with Manchester United loan midfielder Ben Pearson returned to the starting line-up having missed last Saturday’s clash with Doncaster Rovers with an ankle injury.
But young defender Mason Holgate missed out through suspension serving the first of a three-game suspension for his red card against Rovers.
Holgate’s omission handed new signing George Williams the chance to shine defence, while Dale Jennings didn’t even make the match day squad having complained of a foot injury on Friday.
The Reds were also without their injured skipper Martin Cranie, fellow defender James Bree and star striker Sam Winnall.
Cranie and Winnall could return this Saturday at home to Port Vale, which would be a big boost for Wilson, especially having been forced to throw youngsters into the frame over the past few weeks due to injuries and suspensions.
“It’s a learning curve for most of the team we’ve got out their at the minute, but it’s about managing games and making the right decisions at the right time,” reflected Wilson. “That’s the difference between getting a result or not.”
Even with a fully fit squad at his disposal, this was always going to be a difficult test for Wilson and his players.
The Dons have been flying this season and had lost just one of their last 15 league fixtures ahead of hosting the Reds.
And the visitors were given a real scare after only four minutes when debutant Williams, starting his first game after two substitute appearances, was forced to a fine goal-line clearance from Dean Bowditch’s strike.
Striker Milan Lalkovic forced a smart stop from MK Dons keeper David Martin in the tenth minute as the Reds caught the hosts on the counter, before four minutes later the ex-Chelsea hitman whipped in an inswinging cross which Chelsea loan recruit Alex Kiwomya failed to get enough contact to threaten the
Carl Baker, a one time Reds’ target, rifled high and wide from distance as the hosts pressured and then a mistake from Williams allowed Daniel Powell to unleash a right-foot shot on target. Keeper Ross Turnbull saved well.
Turnbull made a fine save to tip an Alli shot against a post, before Grigg netted only to find himself ruled offside.
Baker found space soon after but lashed a powerful shot just wide of the target as Dons looked to score before the break.
Stoke City loan striker George Waring headed on to the roof of the net from a Conor Hourihane delivery, while at the other end Turnbull parried a close-range shot from Baker.
Pearson blazed over with left-foot effort early in the second half before the Reds went behind after some poor defending.
Alli, unmarked on the edge of the box, cut inside and beat Turnbull with a scuffed left-foot strike into the bottom left corner for his 12th goal of the season. 58 – Grigg nearly made it 2-0 less than a minute later as he just failed to turn in Baker’s shot across the face of the box, while Bowditch fizzed a thunderous shot wide of the target as the Dons pressed hard to double their advantage.
The spell of pressure told and Grigg bagged the second goal of the game with a calm finish to beat Turnbull.
Waring shot wide of the target with a good chance to pull a goal back, but the busy Turnbull denied Baker with a fine save as the Reds nearly conceded again.
Turnbull pulled off another excellent block, this time from Rotherham United loan recruit Johnson Clarke-Harris to keep the scoreline down.
Man of the match Grigg somehow misses from six yards out as the Dons fail to kill off the game with a third goal, then former Reds loan striker Devante Cole fired straight at Turnbull.
However, by then the damage has been done.