Dons denied a Lewington win in stoppage time

Bolton Wanderers 3-3 MK Dons

It was not to be a fairy tale start for Dean Lewington as Alex Baptise scored a stoppage time equaliser for Bolton Wanderers in a remarkable 3-3 draw at the University of Bolton Stadium.

First half goals from Mo Eisa and Josh Sheehan saw the sides go in level at the break, and the back-and-forth continued throughout the game. Amadou Bakayoko fired Bolton ahead on 67 minutes when he got on the end of Declan John's cross, but the lead would last just four minutes as Scott Twine's brilliant free-kick would restore parity for Dons.

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Hiram Boateng, who had not kicked a ball since January 2020 for Dons, scored three minutes into his comeback game and thought he had done enough to win it seven minutes from time as Dons retook the lead, but some tired defending left Baptise with an open goal five minutes into time added on to snatch a point for Bolton.

Taking charge of his first game, Dean Lewington made four changes from the side which started seven days earlier at Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup. Laurie Walker, Zak Jules, Ethan Robson and Troy Parrott came into the side at the expense of Franco Ravizzoli, Aden Baldwin, injured David Kasumu and Charlie Brown. The interim manager did not name himself amongst the substitutes but did bring Hiram Boateng out of the cold, having not even been given a squad number under the previous manager.

With the roar of a football crowd back, it felt like both sides were playing with more passion than in any game last season as they were cheered on by the bumper crowd at the University of Bolton Stadium.

The slightly new-look Dons had a more attacking line-up than previously seen, with Mo Eisa, Troy Parrott and Scott Twine all eager to get forward quickly, but it was Tennai Watson who had the first decent sight of goal when he fired over at the second attempt just two minutes in.

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Bolton looked threatening when they came forward, finding space between Zak Jules and Daniel Harvie but Amadou Bakayoko chased more balls out of play than he managed to get on the end of.

The home side's first sight of goal came when Walker, whose distribution would haunt him all day, gave it away and Dapo Afolayan was left free to roam to the edge of the box only to fiz his effort wide.

But out of nothing, Dons took the lead after 22 minutes. Matt O'Riley, captain for the day, read George Johnston's ball out from the Bolton defence and quickly fed Eisa to run into the box, and the striker didn't need a second opportunity to lace it past Matt Gilks.

The lead wouldn't last long though - just eight minutes - when Josh Sheehan scored a wonderful free-kick from 25 yards to level things up for the hosts.

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The game had a little undercurrent of spice about it already, but it burst into life 10 minutes before the break when MJ Williams threw himself into a challenge with Zak Jules which appeared two-footed and left the Dons defender down. Referee Martin Coy took his time before booking the player, but it left Dons incensed.

With that feeling of injustice, mistakes began to creep into Dons' game. Harry Darling twice gave the ball away needlessly in dangerous positions, while Walker was lucky to escape being punished when he passed straight to Trotters striker Eoin Doyle on the edge of the penalty area. Warren O'Hora was fortunately on hand to mop up the mess and deny the striker an effort on goal.

The want and desire from both sides carried into the second half too, though Dons' defensive work appeared to be far more 'traditional' as they looked to cut out some of the mistakes made in the opening 45 minutes. It would be a loose pass though which would allow Bolton to take the lead midway through the second half.

Darling's ball to Watson was easily intercepted by Declan John who broke down the left flank, sending a cross deep to the far post for Amadou Bakayoko to fire past Walker to put Bolton in front.

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The lead though would last just four minutes as Scott Twine matched Sheehan's brilliant first half free-kick with one of his own, beating Gilks to equalise.

At the start of the week, Hiram Boateng didn't even have an MK Dons squad number, seen as surplus to requirements by Russell Martin and his regime. But the midfielder would come off the bench with 10 minutes to go and within three minutes would be celebrating scoring.

Harvie broke down the left-hand side, pulled the ball back into the six yard box but while it was behind Eisa, Boateng stuck a leg out to control before turning it past Gilks and turning straight to Lewington to celebrate with the manager who brought him out from the cold.

But the fairy tale wasn't to be as with 10 seconds remain, Alex Baptise was able to turn home five minutes into stoppage time as Bolton threw everything at it to snag a point at the end.

Referee: Martin Coy

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Bolton Wanderers: Gilks, Jones, John, Williams, Johnston, Sheehan (Lee 85), Doyle (Isgrove 75), Sarcevic, Bakayoko, Afolayan (Kachunga 85), Baptise

Subs not used: Dixon, Santos, Delfouneso, Thomason

MK Dons: Walker, Jules, Darling, O'Hora, Harvie, Watson (Baldwin 68), Robson, O'Riley, Twine (Ilguna 90), Parrott (Boateng 80), Eisa

Subs not used: Ravizzoli, Brown, Freeman, Bird

Booked: Williams