JAY O’Shea had the luck of the Irish on St Patrick’s Day as his equaliser spared Dons’ blushes against Chesterfield in a brilliant 1-1 draw at the b2net Stadium on Saturday.
Dons can count themselves lucky not to have been three or four goals down in the first half, but it was only Drew Talbot’s third minute opener which separated the sides at the break. But Jay O’Shea fired in Dons’ equaliser 10 minutes after the break as the visitors proceeded to dominate the second half. Daniel Powell spurned a one-on-one and Robert Hall hit the crossbar as Dons looked the more likely to win late on, but 1-1 was probably a fair result on reflection.
Karl Robinson made two chances to the side which comfortably saw off Exeter City last Saturday, with Luke Chadwick and Jabo Ibehre in for Daniel Powell and Dean Bowditch – the latter rested as a precaution for the busy period coming up. Friday’s loan signing Robert Hall was named among the substitutes.
They may have been forgiven for having half an eye on next week’s Johnston’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley, but the home side certainly looked fully focussed 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
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 eventually made 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 rooled 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.
It wasn’t all one way in the early stages though as Whitaker put the ball just over the bar at the other end – a stark reminder that Chesterfield were still keen to extend their lead.
But 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 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.
John Sheridan’s changes lifted the home side, even though they were clearly made with Wembley in mind next weekend.
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 onto James Hurst’s shot in stoppage time.
Referee: Steven Rushton
Attendance: 6,444 (433)
Chestefield: Lee, Hurst, Trotman, Thompson, Ridehalgh, Allott, Talbot, Moussa (Mendy, 64), Whitaker (Ajose, 72), Bowery, Lester (Westcarr, 64)
Subs not used: Fleming, Ford
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Doumbe, Flanagan, Williams, Potter, Smith, O’Shea, Chadwick (Hall, 70), Ibehre (Powell, 46), MacDonald
Subs not used: Chicksen, Slane, McLoughlin