United were back at stadium:mk for the first time in nearly five years on Saturday afternoon as they came up against high-flying MK Dons on their return to league action following last weekend's FA Cup second round fixture against Lincoln City.
The game started slowly but United had a half chance in the first minute when a long ball forward was flicked on by Nadesan. Hope took it in his chest, 23 yards out, but his first time volley was always heading wide.
A shot from D'Ath was blocked by Gerrard as the Dons tried to make things happen, and Gillesphey had to take care as Williams came down his flank at pace. The away side closed ranks to make sure they kept the door shut.
There was more for Carlisle to think about as they lost Jerry Yates to a hip injury early in the piece, and the space in midfield was exploited well by the home side. A reverse pass to McGrandle invited a shot from the edge of the box which Collin was pleased to see curl away from his bottom corner.
More tidy football from the hosts saw D’Ath, Cargill and Cisse tease a path through the stubborn back line. Cargill whipped a delivery across the face of goal but it was once again just an inch too high for Healey as he steamed in.
The Cumbrians were let off the hook midway through the half when Cargill rattled a beauty of a delivery into the mix. Collin spilled it, as he collided with Gerrard, and the ball bobbled invitingly loose and unguarded. It was sighs of relief all round as the static attack allowed the keeper to recover.
Carlisle struggled get out of their own half, but they could have nicked the lead when Nadesan used pace to get onto a ball over the top which bounced free in the left channel. The angle was tight and his scuffed volley was easy for Nicholls to grasp.
Having been completely under the thumb it was United who should have taken the lead when Nadesan beat his man once again to end a low cross towards the back stick. Hope slid in and got the contact, but Nicholls spread himself to make an excellent point-blank save. The rebound came back off Hope and careered onto the upright before ricocheting kindly behind as the Carlisle striker threw everything at it in an attempt to get it over the line.
The home side responded when Healey jinked through two challenges to make his way into the box. He was stopped in his tracks as he shaped to shoot but the ball rolled nicely for Agard to have a go. It was going in until an outstretched boot helped it on its way over the bar.
A cut back from Agard to Healey looked to have brought a certain goal as the striker put his boot through the shot. It was going in until until Liddle somehow completed an amazing scissor-kick goal line clearance.
Good work from Hope in time added on for the half saw him overlap before cutting back inside to let one fly. It was blocked, as was the follow up from Etuhu. United stayed forward and Jones did well to steal possession back. The whistle for half time blew as his crisp volley hit a shin and spun behind.
It took just five minutes of the second half for the Dons to break the deadlock when a lack of concentration from a half-cleared corner allowed Houghton to steal in and nick possession. He shot from distance and the slightest of deflections took it past Collin and into the net via the base of the post.
Nadesan and Etuhu had efforts blocked as Carlisle looked to respond, but Collin still had work to do at the other end when a shot from Gilbey came at him from long range.
The game became comfortable for the Dons when Carlisle were caught light at the back as Lewington was sent free on the left flank. His cross was perfect for Agard and the prolific forward left Collin with no chance as his deft flick took the ball into the bottom corner.
Nicholls saved with his fingertips when Hope let fly with United looking for a route back into the game, but the pace of the encounter visibly slowed as MK Dons sat deep and protected their cushion.
A shot from Etuhu from a Devitt corner was followed by a scramble, but Nicholls emerged with the ball depsite a number of flailing legs being punted his way.
A high cross was then sent behind before Bennett could pounce, and the Dons defended in numbers to see the game through to a successful conclusion, despite Gillesphey clipping the angle of post and bar late in the day.
MK Dons - Houghton (50), Agard (64)
Carlisle United - Slater (31), Gillesphey (60)
MK Dons - Nicholls, Williams, Lewington, Cisse, Gilbey, Agard (Watson 90), McGrandles, D'Ath (Sow 80), Houghton, Cargill, Healey (Pawlett 70). Subs - Moore, Hancox, Simpson, Jackson.
Carlisle United - Collin, Sowerby, Liddle, Gerrard, Gillesphey, Yates (Parkes 11), Jones, Etuhu, Slater (Devitt 60), Hope, Nadesan (Bennett 62). Subs - Gray, Miller, Grainger, Campbell.
Referee - Mr Scott Oldham
Attendance - 6,849 (343 away fans)