IRISHMAN Jay O’Shea had good reason to celebrate St Patrick’s Day as his goal cancelled out Chesterfield’s early opener to give Dons a draw 1-1 at the b2net Stadium on Saturday.
It could have been much worse for Dons as they struggled in the early stages against a dogged Chesterfield, who slipped to the bottom of the table with the draw, and could easily have found themselves 4-0 down after 15 minutes after Drew Talbot put the home side ahead inside three minutes.
However, a spirited fightback saw them equalise early in the second half and even have chances to secure the win late in the game.
Manager Karl Robinon said he was pleased with the way his side fought back, but feels they should have finished off Chesterfield, who slipped to bottom of the division as a result of the draw.
“I thought our performance was good enough to win it,” he said afterwards. “We moved the ball about well on a difficult, bobbly pitch. For large parts of the game we played very well but when our chances came, we didn’t take them.
“Chesterfield are a good side at home and it’s a good point here, but I still think we should have got more. That’s just the way our luck is going recently.
“I thought their keeper (Tommy Lee) was man of the match. He got player of the month before kick off, and it shows how well he’s done. But this team is littered with good players.
“We’ve got a point, I wish it was three and I think it should have been three.”
They may have been forgiven for having half an eye on next week’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final against Swindon Town at Wembley, but the home side certainly looked fully focused in the opening exchanges and hammered home the point when they took the lead after just three minutes. A Danny Whitaker corner from the Chesterfield left was only half cleared by the Dons defence as far as Drew Talbot, and he lashed the ball home from 10 yards, giving Martin no chance.
And it could have been even worse for Dons when Jack Lester raced in behind the defence with only David Martin to beat, but Tom Flanagan did brilliantly to race back and throw himself in front of the ball at the vital moment, deflecting the ball wide.
Chesterfield should have been hosed and dried after 12 minutes when Liam Ridehalgh’s dangerous shot was deflected just over the bar as the away side struggled to make any leeway in the midfield.
The third scare seemed to kick Dons into gear for the first time in the game. After a good spell of passing through the middle, Doumbe swung in the ball from the right which just missed Ibehre in the centre, and O’Shea collected on the far side.
The ball made its way it back across to Doumbe once again, but his left-footed shot sailed well over the bar.
The visitors began to get the better of the game, but Chesterfield continued to look incredibly dangerous going forward, with Lester and strike partner Jordan Bowery proving to be a tough physical presence for Shaun Williams and Tom Flanagan to fight at the back.
O’Shea tested Spirites keeper Tommy Lee with a low effort after some clever work on the flank to allow him space to break into the penalty area, and Ibehre fired over, but Dons struggled to create anything which looked like troubling the scorers as the sides neared the half time break.
Chesterfield could have put the icing on a terrific first half in the final minute when Bowery barged his way past Williams and held up play brilliantly to feed Franck Moussa but his shot was just inches wide of Martin’s upright, and the home side had to settle for a 1-0 advantage at the break, though it should have been greater.
Robinson rolled the dice at the break, replacing Ibehre with Daniel Powell, and the substitute was immediately involved in the action, forcing a great low save from Lee before O’Shea made the keeper work again from the rebound as Dons set about getting the equaliser.
And it wasn’t long before Dons were back on level terms. Looking like the only player likely to score for the away side, O’Shea duly obliged with a terrific shot from the edge of the area which nestled nicely in the bottom corner of the net 10 minutes after the restart.
With the equaliser, the wheels began to fall off Chesterfield’s wagon as Dons looked in the ascendancy, controlling the game and for once, making the home side chase the ball as they pinged the ball quickly around the pitch.
Luke Chadwick could have put Dons into the lead five minutes after the leveller but his curler was just wide. But Daniel Powell had the best chance just past the hour mark when he raced clear of the defence but failed to spot MacDonald in support as Lee dived in at his feet to gather.
Forward Robert Hall, who signed from West Ham on Friday, was given his Dons debut with 20 minutes to go replacing Chadwick, but it was another substitute in Nicky Ajose, who could’ve put the home side back into the lead with 16 minutes to go but his shot raced across the face of goal.
Hall’s first involvement was fire in a ferocious drive from the left flank which had Lee beaten in goal, but the shot cannoned off the top of the crossbar.
It was a real end-to-end affair with both sides sensing victory in the dying stages. Charlie MacDonald should have scored with six minutes to go when Dean Lewington’s shot was parried by Lee, but the striker couldn’t quite direct his header past the stricken keeper as he stuck an arm out to block the effort. And he breathed a sigh of relief two minutes later when O’Shea’s curler went narrowly wide.
David Martin was the hero late on though as Chesterfield piled on the pressure and did brilliantly to clutch on to James Hurst’s shot in stoppage time.
Goalscorer Jay O’Shea was pleased to be on the scoresheet with his fifth of the season, but was disappointed not to add to his tally late in the game.
He said: “I had my back to goal and I thought I was getting my shirt pulled a bit and tried to get the referee to give a foul. Luckily, he didn’t give it, I got away from my man and managed to get a shot off with my left foot.
“I think we had enough chances to win it but their keeper was good. We got back into the game well, and we were unlucky not to take it.
“I thought Chesterfield started really well, and we were asleep at the short corner. After that, we got back into the game. We were creating a lot of chances and luckily enough I got the goal in the second half. I had a good chance in the last couple of minutes but my leg cramped up just as I was about to hit it – I’m not making excuses!”
Robinson put the second half improvement down to the alterations he made at the break, but felt that the home fans ironically helped spur the visitors on by getting on John Sheridan’s back.
Robinson said: “We changed things round at half time. I felt their fans helps us too by getting on their manager’s back. Some of the things they were shouting at John Sheridan when they were 1-0 up was not great and doesn’t help the players.
“Tactically, we made chances defensively and in the final third and I think it worked.”
And Robinson said he was impressed with new signing Hall, and added he might not be the last signing this season.
He said: “Robert Hall showed the good and bad side of him. He showed a bit of defensive naivety, but he showed the quality I want in the final third. He knows I wanted to sign him in the January window, and I fought hard to get him. I went to watch him, but Sam Allardyce said he was staying so it was a wasted trip! But West Ham had an influx of strikers that have made him available.
“I’m still searching for one more and hopefully we’ll get over the line with that early this week.”
Dons busy March continues on Tuesday night as they take on mid-table Leyton Orient on Tuesday night at stadium:mk.
Dons comfortably saw off Orient 3-0 on Boxing Day and will be keen for a repeat performance.