Crawley 2-2 Dons: Alli rescues a late point in a frantic match

editorial image

A quite remarkable afternoon in Crawley saw Dons snatch a 2-2 draw with the final kick of the game, but it only tells half story.

Izale McLeod scored both goals for the home side, who played 50 minutes with striker Matt Harrold in goal after Brian Jensen was forced off through injury.

The game had an ugly streak though, with two incidents involving Dons players and the home supporters as both Carl Baker and Will Grigg had drinks thrown at them.

Grigg would eventually give Dons a lifeline with 14 minutes to go, heading past Harrold before Dele Alli stroked home the equaliser with the final kick of the game.

Karl Robinson made six changes to the side which played eight days earlier in the FA Cup defeat to Chesterfield, but the most notable absentee was top scorer Benik Afobe. Heavily linked with a move to Wolves in the Championship, Afobe wasn’t even named on the substitutes bench.

But it was his replacement in the starting line-up, Will Grigg, who made a big impact on the opening exchanges. Deft touches and quick passes were the order of the early play from the striker, and he twice almost slid Dele Alli in behind the Crawley defence - the second of which saw the teenager come within inches of opening the scoring with a bending effort from the edge of the box just wide.

A familiar face would come back to haunt Dons though as Crawley took the lead after 13 minutes. Dons’ all-time leading goal-scorer Izale McLeod missed a penalty for Crawley at stadium:mk, but he made no mistakes in putting the home side into the lead after being brought down, again, by former Crawley defender Kyle McFadzean. This time, McFadzean stayed on the field, while McLeod drilled his penalty low into the bottom corner, out of David Martin’s reach.

It didn’t seem to knock Dons off their stride though, as they continued to have the better of the play. The visitors were enjoying a lot of space on the right flank, with Carl Baker and Ben Reeves able to carve their way into the penalty area from wide. But the killer ball was often lacking and easily dealt with by the Crawley defence.

But that defence was dealt a huge blow eight minutes before the break when Samir Carruthers collided with keeper Brian Jensen, flooring the stopper. After several minutes of treatment, Jensen had to be withdrawn, but with no keeper on the substitutes bench, interim manager Dean Saunders had to give the gloves to striker Matt Harrold for the remainder of the game.

Dons could have had a penalty of their own in the seven minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half when Alli rounded Harrold with relative ease, but as he was about to pull the trigger, was challenged from behind by Joe Walsh. Sent sprawling, Alli looked astonished not to be awarded the spot kick, much to the delight of the home support.

And they had one more chance to level before the break, but Jordan Spence was unable to test the keeper’s skills with the gloves as he blasted well over the top after a neat one-two with Baker.

But their job was made twice as hard barely three minutes into the second half when the Dons defence simply went to sleep, giving McLeod time to collect the loose ball in the box, before shooting on the turn, diverted into the net via a deflection which took it out of Martin’s reach.

With tempers flaring, Carl Baker was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch when he was doused with a drink from the crowd and reacted furiously. Dragged away by Darren Potter, and after consulting with the assistant, referee Graham Salisbury opted not to take action against the winger, who shook hands with the fan as the madness subsided.

It certainly seemed to galvanise the visitors and from then on, it was one way traffic. Harrold’s every touch was celebrated like a goal, but none more so than for his unorthodox save with his feet to keep out Reeves.

Dons’ main problem though appeared to be hitting the target. As they peppered the goal with shots, none of them really troubled the striker with the gloves, and so deep was Crawley’s defence, they almost had five men filling the goal.

Luck was certainly shining down on Harrold too. When his kick was blocked by Grigg, he was able to climb above the Dons striker to reclaim it to alleviate danger.

But with 15 minutes to go, Dons were given a vital lifeline when Grigg headed Reeves’ cross home to pull one back.

Grigg was then the centre of controversy when he tried to retrieve the ball from the fans behind the goal, and he too appeared to be dashed with a drink, taking offence to a lesser extent than Baker.

Deep into stoppage time though, just when it looked like all was lost, another melee in the penalty area ensued and cool as you like, Alli was on hand to stroke home the equaliser with the last kick of the game.

Referee: Graham Salisbury

Attendance: 2,468 (424)

Crawley Town: Jensen (Harrold 39), Oyebanjo, Henderson (Young 25), Bradley, Edwards (Anderson 67), Smith, McLeod, Walsh, Tomlin, Ward, Elliot

Subs not used: Banya, Bawling

MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Kay (Hitchcock 87), McFadzean, Spence (Powell 63), Alli, Potter, Baker, Carruthers (Bowditch 52), Reeves, Grigg

Subs not used: Hodson, Green, McLoughlin, Baldock

Booked: Alli, Tomlin, Grigg, Baker