DANIEL Powell rescued a point for MK Dons as they had to come from behind with 10 men to earn a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth on Tuesday night.
Lewis Grabban converted the home side’s early pressure with a well-taken goal on the turn after 16 minutes, before Alan Smith earned Dons’ third straight red card in as many games three minutes later for a reckless challenge on Harry Arter.
But with the man disadvantage, Dons shut up shop, defensively were brilliant, and managed to strike with their only real chance of the game when Powell converted in the second half.
It was heart-in-the-mouth stuff for the 271 travelling fans in the final 15 minutes as Bournemouth threw long ball after long ball into the box, but David Martin was barely challenged as Dons held on to a vital point.
There were a whole host of changes to the Dons line-up compared to Saturday’s 2-0 win over Oldham, most notably a switch to 4-4-2 as Charlie MacDonald joined Ryan Lowe up front.
Antony Kay’s late red card ruled him out at the Goldsands Stadium, with skipper Dean Lewington filling in at centre back and Adam Chicksen shifting to left back, which handed a debut to summer signing Jon Otsemobor on the right.
Smith replaced Luke Chadwick in the centre of the park, while Jay O’Shea also dropped to the bench.
The first 10 minutes passed without much incident – Smith mistimed a challenge on half-way which he was lucky not to be booked for, while Dean Bowditch and Lewington both put efforts over the crossbar. At the other end, Lee Barnard nearly snuck in behind Chicksen.
Despite not really seeing much of the ball, it was Bournemouth who took the lead after 16 minutes. Grabban did brilliantly to control the ball around the penalty spot, and turned Lewington to tuck the ball away from Martin to put the home side a goal to the good.
Things went from bad to worse for Dons in the 19th minute when Smith, lucky not to have been booked earlier, was shown a straight red card for an awful tackle on Arter about 30 yards from goal.
Smith went scything in, catching the Bournemouth man high with his studs showing, leaving referee Brendan Malone no choice but to dish out Dons’ third straight red card in as many games. To square things up in the centre of the park, Chadwick was called upon to replace MacDonald.
With the man advantage, Bournemouth had the wind in their sails and penned Dons in their own half, dominating possession and making the visitors chase to get any sniff of the ball.
The make-shift defence was holding up well though – Lewington was beginning to get the better of Grabban while Gary MacKenzie was continuing his fine start to the season, winning everything in the air against Barnard.
Martin had little to do but pluck crosses out of the sky for much of the first half, but he needed to be alert when Joe Partington drove in a ball at the near post, palming the ball wide for a corner.
With the amount of pressure they had to absorb, Dons would have felt positive about the way they defended in the first 45 minutes. And in truth they had defended well – they just hadn’t seen the ball in the attacking third.
It looked to be more of the same when Partington fired just wide four minutes after the restart, but Dons looked to have found their way and began to keep possession of the ball better. And they even came close to equalising when Powell found Bowditch in the area, but he couldn’t keep his shot down as it sailed behind.
Dons also had a half-hearted penalty appeal turned down when Powell fell under pressure from defender Miles Addison, but Martin had to be alert from the counter-attack when Barnard’s long-range effort looked to be dipping under the bar.
And incredibly, Dons managed to equalise 62 minutes in. After a powerful run from MacKenzie, the ball made it up to Bowditch who slipped it through to Powell in the box. Still with a lot to do, Powell put just enough on the ball to lift it over Shwan Jalal in the Bournemouth goal as he rushed forward to close him down and narrow the angle.
Three minutes later, Bournemouth had the ball in the net again, but Barnard was adjudged offside as he beat Martin to Eunan O’Kane’s cross, toeing into an empty net. And the home side came close again with 19 minutes to go when Steve Cook headed against the crossbar as they began turning the screw, desperate to get back in front.
But despite throwing on veteran Steve Fletcher at half time, the Cherries didn’t make best use of his aerial ability until fairly late in the game when Bournemouth launched ball after ball onto the head of the big man.
It was real backs-to-the-wall stuff from Dons in the final 10 minutes as they desperately clung on to their point, while the home side continued to search for a late winner.
And it nearly came three minutes from the final whistle from the unlikeliest of sources in Chadwick as he miscued a header which went narrowly wide of his own goal. But for all their pressure, Martin hardly had to work in the second half, except for a little time-wasting to see Dons over the line.
Referee: Brendan Malone
Attendance: 5,407 (271)
AFC Bournemouth: Jalal, Francis, Daniels, Barnard, Addison, Pugh, O’Kane, Partington, Arter (Fletcher, 45), Cook, Grabban (Tubbs, 78)
Subs not used: Flahavan, Thomas, Wakefield, Gregory, Zubar
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, Chicksen, MacKenzie, Lewington, Potter, Smith, Bowditch (O’Shea, 90), Powell, MacDonald (Chadwick 21), Lowe (Ibehre, 71)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Alli, Galloway
Booked: Partington, Chicksen
Sent off: Smith