TO need an injury time equaliser to earn a point against a side fighting relegation, and yet still climb a place at the top of the table, illustrates perfectly what Dons boss Karl Robinson meant when he described League 1 as remarkable.
Going to struggling Shrewsbury sat fourth in the table and big favourites to make it five league wins on the spin, Dons were eventually fortunate to leave with a 2-2 draw thanks to Dean Bowditch’s beautiful injury time strike.
That was the third time in as many league games that Dons have scored a crucial late goal. Unlike those against Tranmere and Sheffield United, it didn’t give them another victory, but the draw did earn what could prove to be a vital point gained, rather than two dropped.
When 1-0 up at Greenhous Meadow, and with other results going their way, Dons enjoyed another brief spell in second place before Shrewsbury fought back to take the lead.
Had Bowditch not found the back of the net in the 92nd minute, Dons would be going into Saturday’s home game with Colchester sat seventh, having – on the face of it – achieved very little in terms of their league position since the start of their superb recent run. Instead, his goal saw Robinson’s men end the night one place higher than where they started it – and sitting third in the table is no bad thing.
League 1 certainly is remarkable, and Swindon Town were the big losers of its unpredictable nature as they fell from third to sixth after losing to Brentford, while Tranmere, Sheffield United and Stevenage were all held to draws.
But the best example of how strange League 1 is this year comes from Dons themselves, who looked more like a Premier League outfit than a third tier one at Tranmere last Friday, before struggling to get their game going against a Shrewsbury side who climbed out of the relegation zone as a result of the point they picked up.
Dons’ three late goals in their last three league games have all felt like they could be extremely significant moments come the end of the season – Bowditch’s goal the latest after Stephen Gleeson’s winner at Prenton Park and Shaun Williams’ penalty against Sheffield United before that.
November was always going to be a crucial month in Dons’ bid to escape League 1, and at the moment it couldn’t have gone much better. Not only have they proved they are capable of beating their rivals, but Dons have also shown the sort of mental toughness that has, perhaps, been missing in recent years.
People would often accuse Manchester United of being lucky for scoring so many late, important goals to pick up points they didn’t deserve.
That’s exactly what Dons did on Tuesday night, and although the true value of Bowditch’s injury time equaliser won’t be known until the end of the season, the fact that it stretched their unbeaten run to five league games already makes it priceless.
Scoring late isn’t luck, it’s what good teams do.