Skipper spares Dons’ blushes

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IN a quite remarkable turnaround, Dons rescued a point as they drew 1-1 with Huddersfield Town.

The Terriers could have been high and dry by the half hour mark, but it wasn’t until the 37th minute that Scott Arfield opened the scoring after the Dons back four went to sleep. But Dons were back in it 20 minutes after the break when Dean Lewington fired home after Gary MacKenzie’s header was well saved by Town keeper Ian Bennett.

But it could have been much worse for Dons when five minutes from time, referee Chris Foy awarded the visitors a penalty when Alan Lee and Gary MacKenzie clashed - the Dons defender was given his marching orders, but David Martin saved Lee Novak’s penalty to keep the scores level.

Charlie MacDonald was the most noticable absentee from the squad, while Lewis Guy returned from his month-long loan at League 2 side Oxford United and make the bench. Stephen Gleeson was lucky to shake off his injury after limping off last Saturday at Sheffield Wednesday, while Mark Beevers returned to the starting line-up, ineligible to play at Hillsborough.

Shaun Williams remained in the starting 11, switching from the centre of defence to the man in the hole behind Dean Bowditch. And it took him just three minutes to test his range at the other end of the field, as his left footed strike dipped and swerved through the air, forcing Town keeper Ian Bennett into a fine save, tipping over the bar.

Huddersfield came into the game on the back of a 33 league fixtures without a defeat. And they showed how dangerous they could be when Lee Novak’s persistence paid off and he broke to the byline, but his cross was just over strike partner Alan Lee’s head, as both side set out their stall just five minutes in.

Danny Ward was unlucky not to open the scoring after 11 minutes when his cracking volley from the edge of the box thundered off the crossbar as Town looked to smother the midfield with sheer numbers, while Dons’ passing game struggled to get going.

And the visitors continued to knock on the door for the opening goal, and came close again when Scott Arfield breezed past a static Gary MacKenzie, but luckily for the defender, Arfield’s ball across the box was well behind Lee.

Town were becoming wasteful in front of goal, and should have been 3-0 up on the half hour. But despite Lee’s excellent chip over Beevers to put him one-on-one with David Martin, his shot was poor and straight at the keeper. Novak also benefited from some nervy Dons defending, but his opportunist lob from close range flew over the bar as the scores remained 0-0.

Eventually, the pressure told and Town took the lead in the 37th minute. Damien Johnson crossed in from the right, but the Dons back line stepped up too late. Alan Lee somehow hit the base of the post with his unmarked header from five yards out, and with the Dons defenders still stood still, three town players could’ve stepped up to fire in. Scott Arfield took the honours to easily slot past the vulnerable Martin to put Huddersfield into the lead – one they held until the break.

Dons were dealt another blow early in the second half when Adam Smith hobbled off after a challenge with Novak, and was replaced by Adam Chicksen, who started the season at right back.

Huddersfield continued to look dangerous in the final third, but at the other end, Gleeson came close to restoring parity, narrowly missing Luke Chadwick’s cross as the home side began to get a foothold in the game.

Williams too could’ve pulled Dons level but his shot was well saved by Bennett, but it was from the resulting corner that the home side did get back into it. MacKenzie’s initial header was beaten away by Bennett, but it fell straight to Lewington’s right foot, and he rifled into the top of the net for 1-1 with 26 minutes still remaining.

The goal certain awoke the Dons fans, but Huddersfield weren’t to be buried yet as Lee brilliantly turned on the edge of the 18-yard box and fired just wide.

And a brilliant move from the visitors with 15 minutes remaining should have put them back into the lead, when substitute Gary Roberts broke from his own half, exchanged passes with Novak and appeared to have beaten Martin with his neat shot, only to see his effort cleared off the line by MacKenzie.

The final 20 minutes was real end-to-end stuff, with Dons countering nearly every Town attack with one of their own. Williams, Powell and Bowditch were really putting in a shift to keep up with the long balls to chase down, but just lacked that bit of luck in the final third to make it count.

But suddenly there was a flash point. With five minutes to go, Alan Lee and Gary MacKenzie clashed in the penalty area, well away from play. Both appeared to butt heads and Lee had his hands around MacKenzie’s neck, but referee Chris Foy only saw MacKenzie’s discrepancy and after consulting his linesman, sent the Scot off. Astonishingly though, he awarded Town a penalty. Up stepped Novak, but Martin saved low to his right to keep his side on level terms as the full time whistle shortly followed.

But while the result may not have favoured either side as Charlton and Sheffield United both picked up maximum points, Dons will feel the better side leaving stadium:mk with a point.

Referee: Chris Foy Attendance: 8,243 (1,284 away)

MK Dons: Martin, Smith (Chicksen, 51), Lewington, MacKenzie, Beevers, Gleeson, Potter, Chadwick (Guy, 78), Powell (~McNamee, 84), Williams, Bowditch

Subs not used: McLoughlin, Baldock

Huddersfield Town: Bennett, Hunt, Woods, Kay, McCombe, Ward (Roberts, 60), Arfield, Gobern, Johnson, Novak, Lee

Subs not used: Colgan, Rhodes, Cooper, Robinson

Booked: Woods, Novak

Sent off: MacKenzie