A DRAW was a fair result for both sides as MK Dons drew on their return to stadium:mk against Brentford on Saturday.
After a goalless first half, Keanu Marsh-Brown - making his home debut - opened the scoring two minutes after the interval, tapping home Luke Chadwick’s cross from five yards out. But the Bees weren’t behind for long, when Lewis Grabban had time to turn and shoot past David Martin seconds later as the game ended 1-1.
Rowan Vine was handed his first start at Dons after impressing in the midweek behind-closed-doors friendly against Wycombe Wanderers, while Sean O’Hanlon returned from suspension, replacing the suspended Gary MacKenzie. Thursday’s loan signing Stephen Hughes was named on Karl Robinson’s bench.
In the week, Robinson said his team would be tough to contain in the opening period, and the visitors hardly touched the ball in the first five minutes as Dons attacked with pace from Marsh-Brown and Adam Chicksen up the left flank - but the only chance created was a shot high over the bar from the Fulham youngster.
Vine, making his first start for Dons since joining nearly a month ago tested Bees stopper Richard Lee with a low drive, saving with his legs at the near post as Dons continued to pressurise.
David Martin was nearly called into action though as Brentford ventured on a rare break forward. Sam Saunders collected Toumani Diagouraga’s well-won header in midfield and space opened up in front of him, allowing him to travel and get the shot off from the edge of the box, but it was well wide of the mark.
And it was the visitors who should have taken the lead, and then doubled it, after quarter of an hour. Grabban’s innocuous ball across the pitch looked to be easily collected by Mathias Doumbe, but the veteran defender misjudged it and allowed the ball to slide under his feet. Myles Weston pounced on the error and was clear through on goal, but Martin was equal to his shot from inside the area and Dons safely cleared.
Another slip in the defence nearly let Brentford in again just three minutes later, but this time Grabban’s effort was wide of the target - Nicky Forster’s men could have been high and dry by this point.
Without suspended Peter Leven in the midfield, Dons were forced into a new formation from the one seen in recent months. Chadwick filled in positionally for Leven, but the physical aspect of his game was lacking and the centre of the park felt light-weight against the likes of Toumani Diagouraga and Marcus Bean in the centre for Brentford.
The Londonders should have been celebrating their third goal on the half hour when Sam Saunders was left unmarked on the Brentford right and, being played onside by Marsh-Brown on the far side of the pitch, approached goal unchallenged. But incredibly he passed the ball across the face of goal rather than taking the shot on himself, and it went out of play.
Robinson was left flabbergasted on the touchline when, seven minutes from the break, Marsh-Brown’s cross appeared to be clearly handled by Karleigh Osborne just inside the penalty area, and much to the manager’s disbelief, it was not given and the sides went in level at the break.
Dons came out flying in the second half and created their best chance of the game within 60 seconds of the restart. The quick feet of Marsh-Brown threw off two defenders as he turned on the edge of the area and slipped through a ball to Daniel Powell, but his shot went just wide.
But Dons weren’t to be denied as a minute later they took the lead. Dean Lewington, playing at centre half, played a fantastic pass through to Chadwick, who charged towards goal, and played the ball across the face for Marsh-Brown to tap home for his first goal in Dons colours.
But just as quickly as they took the lead, Dons were pegged back again. Gary Alexander received the ball 40 yards from goal and split the defence with his pass which found Grabban unmarked in the penalty area, and the forward made no mistakes when he turned and lashed passed Martin to equalise just two minutes after Marsh-Brown’s opener.
The teenager should have put Dons ahead once again just before the hour, when Powell’s well-timed pass put him through on goal, but arguably, he took the ball a touch too wide, and his shot from the tight angle went wide of the mark and out for a goal kick.
Dons fans had their hearts in their mouths when Alexander breezed past Doumbe and fell to ground, but referee David Coote saw the Brentford man take a dive, earning him a booking.
Doumbe was then seen at the other end of the pitch, looking to add to his impressive goal tally, but his curling left-footed shot was just over the crossbar, with the full-stretch Richard Lee well beaten.
Hughes was introduced with half and hour remaining in place of Chicksen, who again impressed at left back. Doumbe moved alongside O’Hanlon at centre back, with Stephen Gleeson taking over at right full-back.
A rare mistake from Martin in clearing his lines 20 minutes from time nearly gifted Brentford the lead. With an open goal and 25 yards out, Bean fired his volley at goal, and with Martin desperately back tracking, the ball just clipped the top of the crossbar.
Lewington threw himself in front of another goal-bound effort from Brentford seconds later as the Bees looked the more likely to score the next, and decisive, goal.
Marsh-Brown was given a standing ovation with 15 minutes to play as he was replaced by Liverpool winger David Amoo. Worryingly though, Marsh-Brown hobbled down the tunnel with the physio shortly after being substituted.
Capitalising on the pace advantage they had at the back, Brentford nearly took the lead through Weston when Gleeson’s touch back to Martin came up short, but fortunately for the Irish international he could breathe a sigh of relief when Weston’s shot flew into the side netting.
But at the full time whistle, Dons will have been happy to come away from the game with a point, considering the number of chances Brentford created.
Dons remain seventh in League One, and will be in action again on Tuesday night against Leyton Orient.
Referee: David Coote. Attendance: 8,636.
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Doumbe, O’Hanlon, Chicksen (Hughes, 62), Gleeson, Chadwick, Powell, Marsh-Brown (Amoo, 74), Ibehre, Vine (Guy, 68) Subs not used: Searle, Stirling, G Baldock.
Brentford: Lee, O’Connor (Spillane, 50), Woodman, Bean, Saunders, Weston, Grabban Simpson, 70), Diagouraga (Tudor-Jones, 86), Osborne, Alexander, Legge Subs not used: Balkestein, Bignall, Wright, Moore.
Bookings: Bean, Saunders, Alexander