Stevenage 2-3 MK Dons: Remarkable comeback at the Lamex

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From the jaws of defeat, a quiet incredible comeback saw Dons score three goals in the last 15 minutes to beat Stevenage 3-2 on Saturday.

A disastrous first half performance, matched by a pumped-up Stevenage side, saw Dons deservedly trail 2-0 at the break, as Dean Parrett and a Lucas Akins penalty netted for the home side.

Karl Robinson’s substitutes certainly breathed new life into the visitors, but took until the 81st minute for Jordan Spence to poke home Dons’ first, before a sensational equaliser from Ben Reeves levelled things up.

But deep into stoppage time, Dean Lewington nodded in Reeves’ corner to complete a remarkable turnaround and keep Dons’ play-off hopes alive.

Dons fans making the short trip to the Lamex Stadium were met with the news that assistant manager Gary Waddock had been revealed as Oxford United manager. So for the afternoon, Darren Potter would take over the reins as Karl Robinson’s number two.

Robinson made two changes to the side which lost 2-0 to Peterborough last Saturday. With Stephen Gleeson out suspended, Alan Smith stepped into the middle of the park, and Daniel Powell overcame illness to replace Ryan Hall.

It was a messy opening 15 minutes for both sides. Dons looked unable to string much more than three passes together in the early stages, and looked nervous on the ball. Stevenage meanwhile looked confident with the ball at their feet, and had a game plan to ping in high balls to test Antony Kay and Jordan Spence.

As things began to settle, Dons found their way in the attacking third. Dele Alli sent a shot wide of the mark, while Sanmi Odelusi’s persistence on the left flank won Dons a corner as he fired into a busy penalty area.

But it was the home side who took the lead when Francois Zoko appeared to lose possession when taking on Jordan Spence, but the loose ball fell to Dean Parrett, who made no mistakes in firing an unstoppable effort past David Martin to give them a 17th minute advantage.

Far from kicking Dons into gear, it actually made them fall apart. The defence continued to look indecisive as Stevenage piled forwards, with Luke Freeman proving to be a thorn in their side as he floated around the midfield. His shot from the edge of the area had Martin scurrying across his line to get something on it.

Things went from bad to worse 12 minutes before half time for Dons when Kay brought down Curtis Obeng as yet another Stevenage corner bobbled around in the penalty area. Lucas Akins made no mistakes with the spot kick, putting the home side 2-0 up.

It could have been even worse for Dons six minutes before the interval when Spence failed to clear another long lump forward, but Zoko won the ball in the air from Martin who rushed out to get something on it. Fortunately for Dons though, George Baldock was back covering on the line to hoist the ball away.

Every ball Dons played forwards seemed to be too long, and promising positions fell apart as quickly as they developed. The front three of McLeod, Powell and Odelusi looked at sea, unable to control the ball at their feet. Alan Smith too struggled to make a positive impact on the game as he lost possession far too often, and the half time whistle came as a welcome relief for the visitors.

Robinson made two changes at the break, with McLeod and Powell making way for Dean Bowditch and James Loveridge.

And they made an immediate impact on the way the team was playing, as the on-loan Swansea striker fired a volley just over the top within minutes of coming on. Dele Alli thought he’d pulled one back for the away side four minutes after the restart when his shot clipped the bottom of the post and rolled across the face of goal before it was cleared away.

A long break in play threatened to disjoint Dons’ second half pressure. Dean Parrett collided with Baldock in the penalty area, but didn’t get up again and he had to be stretchered off. It seemed to throw a spanner in the works for Dons as their momentum was lost.

The introduction of Brendan Galloway with 19 minutes to go gave Dons a new lease of life though and they were back on the front foot again. Stevenage could thanks keeper Chris Day for keeping them in it in the remaining 15 minutes, making three incredible stops before Dons finally beat him.

Alli, Galloway and finally Dean Lewington made the keeper work, but it was the latter’s effort which Day could only palm to Spence who smashed it into the roof of the net.

The comeback was complete five minutes later when Ben Reeves, Dons’ best player, unleashed an unstoppable strike from 35 yards into the top corner - an equaliser that looked a remote possibility after the first half performance.

Both sides sensed they could win it when the board flashed up eight minutes of stoppage time, but incredibly, it was Dons who snatched it with four and a half of them played. Reeves’ deep corner had Stevenage scrambling and Lewington got the final touch to complete a sensational turnaround.

Referee: Fred Graham

Attendance:

Stevenage: Day, Dembele, Ashton, Mousinho, Charles (Burrow 90), Akins (Morais 90), Zoko, Parrett (Doughty 64), Freeman, Jimmy Smith , Obeng

Subs not used: Arnold, Wedgbury, Burrow, Reid, Hartley

MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Baldock, Kay, Spence, Alan Smith, Alli, Powell (Bowditch 45), Reeves, Odelusi (Galloway 71), McLeod (Loveridge 45)

Subs not used: Burn, Randall, Rasulo, Hall

Booked: Doughty, Alan Smith