A MARK Beck equaliser five minutes from time robbed MK Dons of a hard-fought victory as they drew 1-1 with Carlisle on Saturday.
In a game well controlled by Dons from start to finish, the opening goal of the game came from Adam Chicksen midway through the first half as he cut inside, shooting low into the bottom corner.
Chances were at a premium at Brunton Park, but both sides could have scored own goals, and both hit the bar in the second half.
But with five minutes to go, former Don Sean O’Hanlon won the ball from a corner, before Mark Beck bundled it over the line to equalise for Carlisle.
With Antony Kay and Ryan Lowe returning from suspension, they went straight back into the starting line-up, with Adam Chicksen replacing Jon Otsemobor at right back. Chris Lines replaced the injured Dean Bowditch, and Alan Smith was serving the first of his four match ban after being sent off last Saturday against Barnsley. After his successful second half stint in midfield, Shaun Williams started the game in the hole behind Lowe. Ian McLoughlin returned from his loan spell with Walsall this week, allowing Karl Robinson to name a keeper on the bench for the first time in more than a month.
Unlike in recent games, Dons appeared to be the better team in the opening 15 minutes. Stroking the ball around nicely in midfield, the visitors had the lion-share of possession but didn’t really create much to have Carlise goalkeeper Mark Gillespie in a sweat.
A clash of heads between Dean Lewington and Danny Livesey saw the latter go down the tunnel needing stitches, and with 10 men, Dons turned up the wick. After a quick passing move, Williams slipped Lowe through, but the striker dragged his shot. A minute later, Lines broke free in midfield and forced Gillespie into a good stop, but he couldn’t keep hold. Just as it looked like Lowe would pounce on the rebound, Sean O’Hanlon slid in at the vital moment to put it out for a corner.
Carlisle barely looked like threatening, but almost scored the opener after 33 minutes when Rory Loy almost got on the end of Jon-Paul McGovern’s looped ball into the box. But David Martin made himself big and got the block in. He felt the effects though.
It seemed to be the wake-up call Dons needed, and the opening goal came from the most unlikely of sources. Adam Chicksen picked up the ball on the right flank, cut inside to the edge of the area and struck low, flashing past Gillespie and into the bottom corner.
The break was enough for Martin to get treatment from the physios, but he couldn’t continue. Ian McLoughlin, replaced him between the sticks – how fortunate that he was back on the bench.
Dons cruised into the half time break, comfortably in control, while Carlisle were given a handful of boos as they made their way down the tunnel.
There was almost a dreadful mix-up at the beginning of the half though. Substitute David Syminton clipped the ball into the danger zone and it looked for all the world that McLoughlin would claim it. But Kay decided to mop it up himself, volleying narrowly over his own bar.
It continued to be a scruffy start to the half as neither side wanted to keep hold of the ball. Passes were misplaced, and possession was given away cheaply but Dons remained in control.
A smooth move between Lowe and Chadwick slid Williams through, but his shot was scuffed and put out for a corner – the Irishman looking more and more at home in the midfield role he rarely been allowed to play in.
Carlisle had a great chance to pull level though 17 minutes into the second half, when McGovern snuck in around the back to meet Symington’s cross. Connecting sweetly with the volley, McGovern beat McLoughlin but not the woodwork, clattering the underside of the bar before Kay hoisted the ball away.
Thing began to swing in favour of Carlisle after that. They pinned Dons into their own half, playing high balls into the box for the defence to deal with, while preventing the visitors from playing the good, passing football they were afforded in the first half.
But Dons too would go on to hit the woodwork. Lowe broke down the left but with no-one in support, he clipped it back to Potter on the edge of the box. It looked as though the midfielder had mis-hit his effort as it looped high into the sky, but it dropped and hit the crossbar, with Gillespie having no idea about it.
Liam Noble almost doubled Dons’ lead with 11 minutes to go when he received the ball 30 yards from his own goal, but turned to play it back to his keeper only to find him not there – Gillespie still recovering ground from an earlier-taken free kick. The ball raced towards the goal line with the keeper busting a gut to slide across the line to keep the ball out, to half-hearted appeals from the Dons players and staff.
But with five minutes to go, Carlisle struck a hammer-blow to Dons as O’Hanlon rose highest to nod down a corner before substitute Mark Beck bundled the ball over the line to equalise.
It made for a nervy remainder to the half as Carlisle sensed blood in the water, winning a series of corners in stoppage time and but for a brave block from Mathias Doumbe, it could have been even worse for Dons.
The draw makes for unpleasant reading in the table, with Dons slipping to 14th in League 1.
Referee: Kevin Wright
Carlisle United: Gillespie, Simek, Livesey (Murphy 68), O’Hanlon, Mustoe, Noble, Thirlwell (Symington 46), Berrett, McGovern, Loy (Beck 80), Miller
Subs not used: Collin, Welsh, Cadamarteri, Potts
MK Dons: Martin (McLoughlin 39), Lewington, MacKenzie (Doumbe 86), Williams, Kay, Potter, Harley (Powell, 63), Lines, Chicksen, Chadwick, Lowe
Subs not used: Otsemobor, McLeod, Baldock, Rasulo
Booked: O’Hanlon, Potter, Chicksen