A FANTASTIC injury time volley from Dean Bowditch earned MK Dons a hard-fought 2-2 draw at struggling Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night.
On a night when they were looking for a fifth straight League 1 win, Dons instead looked set for a fifth defeat of the season after the home side came from a goal down to take the lead at the Greenhous Meadow.
Angelo Balanta fired Dons in front on the stroke of half time, but Shrewsbury went on to dominate much of the second period – turning the game on its head with goals from Luke Rodgers and former Dons winger Mark Wright with just under 20 minutes to play.
However, despite being down to 10 men after making all three substitutions and Daniel Powell being forced off with a knock, Dons’ fighting spirit prevailed and Bowditch struck a superb injury time leveller to earn the visitors a point.
On a night when Sheffield United and Tranmere Rovers were also held to draws, Dons didn’t lose any ground on the top two and will go into Saturday’s home game with Colchester United sat third in the table.
Karl Robinson made one change to the side that beat Tranmere Rovers last Friday, with Alan Smith replacing Ryan Lowe up front. Lowe dropped to the bench where he was joined by Charlie MacDonald, back after missing the trip to the Wirral with an illness.
It looked like another vintage Dons performance was on the cards as Robinson’s men took the game to lowly Shrewsbury in the early stages – Bowditch the provider for Balanta to fire the first warning sign just wide of the post after five minutes.
Luke Chadwick was the next to go close to scoring the opening goal, but his strike was deflected away from its target after home keeper Chris Weale had come charging out of his penalty area to try and deny Bowditch.
Shrewsbury weren’t quite as overwhelmed as Tranmere were last Friday, but like the league leaders, they also struggled to create any chances of note against a stubborn Dons defence, with David Martin relatively untroubled for most of the first half.
Dons arguably should have taken the lead when Darren Potter put Chadwick through on goal, but the experienced midfielder took too long and Weale was able to save at his feet.
The hosts were gradually playing their way into the game, with Luke Summerfield firing a shot over the bar from outside the area, and Marvin Morgan starting to become more of a threat against a Dons side that suddenly started to uncharacteristically give the ball away in the middle of the park.
However, it was Dons who eventually opened the scoring in first half injury time when some excellent build-up play saw Bowditch play the ball into the path of Balanta who showed good composure to pass it into the back of the net.
Graham Turner clearly had a few choice words with his Shrewsbury side at the break as they came out with their tails up in the second half, forcing the visitors onto the back foot. Morgan in particular was a handful as he flashed a shot across the face of goal, but there was no one to get on the end of it.
The offside flag came to Dons’ rescue 10 minutes after the restart when Rodgers appeared to have got the better of the back four and would have been clear through to goal, only for the assistant to rule to striker offside.
As the hour mark approached, Robinson decided to make changes, with Dean Lewington picking up a knock and being replaced by Adam Chicksen, while Balanta made way for Daniel Powell.
Rodgers forced a good save out of Martin, but it looked like only a matter of time before Shrewsbury level drew. And the equaliser arrived in the 65th minutes when a long ball over the top of Dons’ defence put Morgan in the clear, and with Martin exposed after coming off his line, Rodgers emphatically finished into the back of the net for 1-1.
Morgan almost immediately had a chance to put Shrewsbury ahead, but instead it was former Dons man Wright who did so by curling home a terrific strike into the top right-hand corner with 72 minutes played.
With Dons in the unfamiliar position of chasing a game, Stephen Gleeson might have been awarded a penalty when he went down under pressure from Darren Jones, before Bowditch went within inches of scoring as his low strike was deflected just wide.
After MacDonald had come on to replace Chadwick, Dons were forced to end the game with just 10 men on the pitch as Powell limped off down the tunnel while his team-mates desperately searched for an equaliser.
But despite their numerical disadvantage, Dons snatched a dramatic late equaliser when Smith laid the ball off to Bowditch and the in-form front man produced a sensational volley from outside the area – sending the 183 travelling fans wild and stretching their unbeaten League 1 run to five games.
Shrewsbury Town: Weale, Grandison, Jones, Bennett, Jacobson, Taylor, Summerfield, Richards, Wright, Morgan, Rodgers
Subs not used: Anyon, Purdie, Hall, Doble, Goldson, Wildig, Helan
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, Williams, Kay, Lewington (Chicksen 58), Potter, Gleeson, Bowditch, Chadwick (MacDonald 75), Balanta (Powell 58), Smith
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Kouo-Doumbe, Lowe, Sekajja
Booked: Smith, MacDonald
Referee: Darren Drysdale