A DRAW on the road may not sound much but Dons could well have picked up all three points against Exeter City on Saturday.
Things started badly for Dons as Jamie Cureton lobbed keeper David Martin after just eight minutes, but after a fighting performance which was not pretty at times, saw second half sub Jabo Ibehre net for the first time in League One this season as the game finished 1-1.
Sean O’Hanlon picked up a knock against Yeovil and was replaced by Gary MacKenzie at the heart of the defence, while Ibehre dropped to the bench as Dan Powell returned to the starting line-up.
Last week at Yeovil, Dons boss Karl Robinson admitted his team didn’t get going, and against Exeter, he could only watch on as his side went behind early on once again.
David Martin was forced into making top saves from Richard Logan and Jamie Cureton in the first five minutes, it was the latter who had the keeper picking the ball out of the net after just eight minutes. Collecting the ball on the corner of the area, Cureton turned and spotted Martin just off his line, and flicked a deft chip over the head of the Dons stopper to give the Grecians the lead.
Once behind, Dons began to settle. Dan Powell, returning to the startling line-up after missing the Yeovil clash had a second bite of the cherry when Woodards’ low cross saw his initial shot blocked by Billy Jones. Baldock narrowly missed getting on the end of Doumbe’s low cross/shot after a deep Leven corner, but Dons couldn’t make a breakthrough.
Powell was integral in the Dons’ forward play, and looked to turn provider on several occasions from the right flank, looking like the brightest spark in the Dons line-up.
The game settled to a battle in the centre of the park, leaving acres of room for both sides to attack up the flanks, but neither really took advantage. But the visitors had the better of the chances as the first half ebbed away – Lewis Guy, Dean Lewington and Michael McIndoe all had long-range efforts fly off target, but none of them looked like testing keeper Paul Jones.
At the other end, Scott Golbourne had home fans off their seats when his rasping left-footed effort flew narrowly over the crossbar, and Logan again came close, but his chest down showed better technique than the volley that followed.
But into stoppage time, Dons really should have been going in level. Lewis Guy found space on the edge of the area after a mazing run, and fed a surprise ball to Baldock who was bursting into the area. The young forwards effort was thwarted though, despite beating Paul Jones, as Duffy once again dived across to block the shot and put it out for a corner.
And the away side began the second half the same way they ended the first, as McIndoe out-paced the City defence, and with the goal gaping, astonishingly chose to pass to Gary MacKenzie, who saw his close range effort blocked. Powell showed a tremendous amount of skill to see off Golbourne, but his beautiful left-footed curler just missed the far upright with Paul Jones at full stretch as Dons really forced the matter in the search for the equaliser.
The home side began to find their second half feet on the hour. With Cureton dragging MacKenzie and Doumbe left and right, space freed up as the Grecians looked to get in behind and on two occasions, Martin was forced into low saves at his near post.
Dons continued to pressure and looked the more likely to score with 20 minutes to go. Baldock forced a great reaction save from Jones when the ball fell kindly to him on the edge of the six-yard box, but his powerful shot on the turn was punched over the bar.
But Exeter should have killed the game when Golbourne’s ambitious pass evaded the Dons’ defence, and found substitute John O’Flynn breaking into the area, but with Martin beaten, somehow missed the target.
And the Grecians were made to pay for that miss just seconds later. Substitute Luke Chadwick collected the ball on the left flank, and pumped a high ball into the box, which fellow sub Jabo Ibehre, making just his second touch, glanced goalwards, out of reach of the diving Jones and putting Dons on the road to their first away point since November.
With the game finely poised with ten minutes to go, both sides went out in search of the winner, but it was Dons who looked the more likely to find it. Gleeson was orchestrating play, and was instrumental in the closest Dons came in the closing period. Clearing from an Exeter corner, Gleeson showed good skill to evade his marker and feed Woodards on the right flank, and it was his cross this was just ahead of Baldock as Golbourne was forced to put the ball behind for a corner.
Robinson’s final sub, Adam Chicksen, replaced the injured Lewis Guy, and too had a chance to wrap up all three points when Chadwick’s nod-down came to him on the edge of the penalty area, but his right-footed shot was scuffed and cleared by the penalty spot.
City though weren’t without a chance, as Bertie Cozic fired a shot at Martin from 25 yards, but it was straight at the keeper.
Ryan Harley had Robinson’s heart in his mouth deep into stoppage time as the sub unleashed a swirling right foot shot, which was parried by Martin and cleared by Woodards.
The dying seconds were not made any more comfortable as Dons looked to score only their seventh point away. MacKenzie hauled down O’Flynn on the edge of the box, but Harley’s freekick was straight at the wall and the 111 travelling Dons fans could celebrate for only the third time on the road this season.
Referee: R Lewis Attendance: 4,544 (111)
Exeter City: P Jones, Tully, Duffy (Cozic, 45), Dunne, Taylor, Noble (Harley, 67), Golbourne, Cureton, B Jones, Logan (O’Flynn 57), Sercombe
Sub not used: Krysiak, Nardiello, Edwards, Thompson
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Doumbe, MacKenzie, Woodards, Gleeson, Leven, Guy (Chicksen 74), McIndoe (Chadwick, 60), Powell (Ibehre, 71), Baldock
Subs not used: Searle, Carrington, Hamann
Bookings: Duffy, Cozic, Doumbe, Dunne, Sercombe