A HORRIBLE mistake from David Martin with two minutes to go gifted QPR a late lifeline as the sides drew 1-1 at stadium:mk, forcing the game to a replay.
Chasing down a long ball forward in the closing stages, Martin was dispossessed by Heidur Helguson who rolled the ball into an empty net to equalise for the visitors after Dons bossed most of the affair.
Dons had a goal disallowed and were denied a stonewall penalty in the first half when Clint Hill handled the ball in the box as the sides went in level at the break. But they weren’t level for long as Dean Bowditch benefited from a costly error from Heidur Helguson to first past Redek Cerny in front of a record-breaking stadium:mk crowd.
But when Martin’s mistake forces the tie to a replay at Loftus Road on Tuesday January 17.
Despite being sent off on Bank Holiday Monday against Colchester, Karl Robinson took his place in the dugout, awaiting to hear back on any punishment he may face as a result. With Charlie MacDonald injured, Daniel Powell was promoted to the starting line-up with Jabo Ibehre playing as the lone striker. Robinson was forced to name three youth team players, such is the small size of his squad.
As promised, Neil Warnock put out a strong side to face Dons which included on-loan Manchester United forward Federico Macheda for the first time.
Both sides settled into their styles of play quickly, and it made for an exciting opening 10 minutes with chances at both ends. Dean Bowditch was just inches from getting on the end of Daniel Powell’s cross from the right after four minutes, while former Don Jamie Mackie blazed over the bar for Rangers two minutes later after a long ball got in behind Adam Smith.
After a brilliant spell of passing on the edge of their own box, Dons thought they’d scored the opener after 10 minutes. Dean Lewington’s powerful run forward made space for Chadwick to run into and after his initial shot was palmed away by Redek Cerny in the QPR net, Jabo Ibehre was on hand to tap it in. But the celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag, much to the disappointment of the sold out stadium:mk.
Dons could have been punished seconds later when Adam Smith was adjudged to have fouled Mackie on the edge of the area, despite getting a clean foot on the ball. But Alejandro Faurlin’s free kick was fired straight into the wall.
As the game settled, QPR began to see more of the ball in the midfield playing with a high line for the majority in Dons’ half. But a quick break after a 21st minute Rangers corner saw Ibehre and Chadwick racing through on Cerny’s goal, but the latter’s finish was rushed and straight at the keeper.
Dons had a stonewall penalty claim turned away when Powell’s initial air-shot fooled everyone and he was able to cross, but it was clearly blocked by Clint Hill’s hands, but the referee instead gave a corner, and his assistant was equally unmoved by Dons’ protests.
QPR then had the ball in the net, but it was the home fans’ chance to mock celebration as DJ Campbell strayed offside, despite clipping neatly past David Martin.
Despite two divisions difference between the sides, it was Dons who looked the better going forward for much the first half. Adam Smith frequently joined the attacks on the right, out-numbering QPR left back Hill. But there seemed to be a distinct reluctance to shoot from promising positions so by and large, Cerny hardly had to make a save. And it was just the same for Martin in the other net – but for a Faurlin free kick straight at him.
So at the break, the 0-0 scoreline was a fair reflection of the game, though Dons could argue that a penalty decision should have gone their way.
Robinson was forced into making a change at the interval, with Gary MacKenzie being replaced by Mathias Doumbe.
The away side started the second half the brighter, penning Dons into deep for the first five minutes, but it was the League 1 side that had the best chance to open the scoring when Powell broke into the Rangers half before slipping Smith through, but the full-back’s shot was off target and too strong for the unmarked Bowditch to get on the end of at the far post.
At the other end, QPR really should have taken the lead in the 54th minute when the tricky Macheda sent over an excellent ball to the far post, but the unmarked Campbell could only head wide with the goal gaping.
Neil Warnock obviously wanted things done and dusted on the night as he threw Heidur Helguson on in place of Campbell, but his side were given an uphill task when Dean Bowditch fired Dons in front. After failing to clear a 64th minute corner, Shaun Williams found acres of space in the channel and looked to clip the ball back across goal to the unmarked Bowditch. It appeared Helguson would intercept the cross, but he slipped allowing Bowditch time to compose himself before firing across Cerny into the corner of the net.
Macheda looked the most dangerous threat for Rangers as he operated down the left flank, but was substituted with 20 minutes to go for Jay Bothroyd. And while the visitors showed glimpses of their Premier League quality, it was Dons who looked the more comfortable in possession and most likely to add to the scoring as they poured forward looking for the killer blow.
The QPR fans were letting their players know just what they thought of the performance with boos and jeers as attacks broke down. And they were dealt another blow with 10 minutes to go when Faurlin landed awkwardly after winning the ball in front of Darren Potter – the midfielder stretchered from the field of play. And with the away side having made three substitutions already, they were forced into playing the remainder of the game with 10 men.
It was going to take a mistake from Dons for Rangers to get back into it, and it came from keeper David Martin. Chasing down a long ball to Helguson, the keeper missed it completely giving the front man a simple task to roll the ball over the line to equalise for the Premier League side with two minutes remaining, forcing the tie to a replay at Loftus Road.
Referee: Michael Oliver
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Adam Smith, MacKenzie (Doumbe, 45), Williams, Potter, Gleeson, Chadwick, Powell, Bowditch, Ibehre
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, O’Shea, Lobjoit, Alli, Collins
QPR: Cerny, Young, Hill, Hall, Gabbidon, Derry (Buzsaky, 77), Faurlin, Mackie, Tommy Smith, Campbell (Helguson, 61), Macheda (Bothroyd, 70)
Subs not used: Connolly, Murphy, Andrade, Orr