It was a Jekyll and Hyde performance from MK Dons at Deepdale as they rescued a 2-2 draw against Preston North End.
Two defensive slips in the first half gifted Preston their two goals. A mistake from Shaun Williams allowed Chris Humphrey in behind as his cross was put into his own net by Antony Kay. A super strike from Jason Banton pulled Dons level but they were all-square for just three minutes before Jon Otsemobor sold David Martin short, allowing Joe Garner in to put Preston 2-1 up at the break.
A distinctly uninterested Dons side went in at the break, but came out a different beast and fought their way back into it as Williams made amends by scoring a penalty to draw level. From there, they looked like the only team capable of netting a winner, but had to settle for a point.
In the absence of Dean Lewington again, Shaun Williams was asked to deploy at left back with Jon Otsemobor coming in at centre back alongside Antony Kay - Karl Robinson choosing a more physical central pair to deal with the aerial threat of Kevin Davies.
But it wasn’t a ball in the air which caused Dons to go behind after nine minutes, but a ball along the floor. A clever ball in behind Williams looked bread and butter for the Irishman to clear, but he slipped at the vital time to allow Chris Humphrey in around the back. Making it to the byline, he fired a low ball across the face of goal, and it cannoned in off the unfortunate Kay just three yards out as Preston took the lead.
It lifted the home crowd, pushed North End’s line high up the field as they looked to snatch a quick second. Dons’ midield duo of Stephen Gleeson and Darren Potter were being by-passed completely as Davies pulled all the strings in the attacking third for the home side. One of Potters’ first involvements was to play Dele Alli into trouble on the edge of the box. Without a call, Alli was barged through by Davies, who fired in from range but David Martin got down well. Davies then sent a header just wide as they kept Dons on the back foot for the opening 20 minutes.
Dons then enjoyed a 10 minute spell where Preston simply couldn’t get hold of the ball. But for the majority, the visitors just didn’t test keeper Declan Rudd in the Preston net - a few deflected crosses aside.
But he could do absolutely nothing about Jason Banton’s incredible strike which pulled Dons level on 31 minutes. Picking the ball up 35 yards from goal, the on-loan Crystal Palace winger was in acres of space, and tried his arm. The ball rocketed off his right boot and into the top corner, giving Rudd his first real taste of the action, picking the ball out of his net.
Based on the earlier 10 minutes, Dons were worthy of being back on level terms, but they level for just three minutes as a defensive error from Otsemobor gifted the lead back to Preston. The defender, under pressure from Joe Garner, attempted a ball back to his keeper, but sold Martin well short, allowing the Preston man to nip in ahead of him and roll home the home side’s second of the afternoon.
It shifted the momentum of the game again back in the direction of the home side, once more buoyed on by the vocal Deepdale fans who sensed blood in the water. Alli and Bamford looked all at sea against the Preston defence. Neither could pick out a player in an MK shirt, and uncharacteristically drifted out of play making it hard for the playmakers to create anything for them.
Preston were nearly gifted a third goal when another dodgy back pass, this time from Kay, played Martin into trouble again. In saving the corner, his rushed clearance found Joe Garner on the edge of the area, but despite an empty net to aim at, the Preston man fired wide.
Dons were desperate for half time to arrive as Preston pressed ever higher in search of a third, though the whistle came at the right time. And they made a much better start to the half, looking alive and back at the races. But without a goal in the opening 10 minutes of the half, Robinson made a triple substitution, replacing Baldock, Banton and Alli with Samir Carruthers, Luke Chadwick and Izale McLeod.
Carruthers, who signed on loan from Aston Villa last week, looked a lively addition to the side and was keen to show off his abilities in front of his new manager. And it took just eight minutes for him to get involved in his first meaningful piece of action. Exchanging a quick one-two with Williams, Carruthers burst into the box, but was clipped by Tom Clarke and send to the ground - man in the middle Mark Brown had no choice but to award the spot kick. Williams coolly sent Rudd the wrong way, pulling Dons level at 2-2.
The three substitutes changed the complexion of the game completely as suddenly Preston found themselves on shakey ground. Carruthers found space again wide left, slid in McLeod who rather than roll it to Chadwick in space, chose to shoot, but spun it well wide.
Five minutes later, rather than pulling the trigger early, Dons were guilty of over-playing as the trio combined again, but rather than Chadwick shooting when it looked the most obvious choice, he slid in Gleeson. The midfielder then went down after leaping over Clarke’s challenge. Despite offering no appeal, he was booked for simulation.
With 10 minutes to go, it looked like only one team was going to win it as Dons kept the pressure on going forward. Bamford, looking a different player out on the right, burst forwards and after exchanging a quick pass with Chadwick, put his toe-poke agonisingly wide for the visitors.
And that’s the way it stayed as McLeod couldn’t make his presence felt in the area, while Preston can think themselves lucky to have taken their two goals against the poorer of the two MK Dons incarnations in the opening 45 minutes.
With just three games down, Dons move up to seventh in League 1.
Referee: Mark Brown
Attendance: 9,944 (182)
Preston North End: Rudd, Keane, Huntington, Clarke, Wright, Humphrey (Monakana 67), Davies, Holmes, Garner (Beavon 76), Buchanan, Welsh (Wroe 67)
Subs not used: Stuckmann, Laird, Mousinho, Hume
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, Hodson, Williams, Kay, Potter, Gleeson, Alli (Chadwick 55), Baldock (Carruthers 55), Banton (McLeod 55), Bamford
Subs not used: Flanagan, Smith, Reeves, McLoughlin