Darling’s late header earns Dons vital point against Wigan

MK Dons left it late to snatch a point in a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic MK Dons left it late to snatch a point in a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic
MK Dons left it late to snatch a point in a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic
MK Dons 1-1 Wigan Athletic

Harry Darling’s 87th minute header earned MK Dons a point and a 1-1 draw against promotion rivals Wigan Athletic on Saturday in a game which flattered to deceive.

A stop-start and scrappy opening 45 minutes did not live up to the six-pointer billing the position of both sides threatened as third played second, but Tom Naylor’s goal on 58 minutes looked to be the difference.

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But Darling’s eighth goal of the season, powering home Scott Twine’s third corner in a row, would ensure a share of the spoils with three minutes to go.

And with leaders Rotherham sharing a goal-less draw away at Wycombe Wanderers, the battle at the top of League One stays the same.

After being rested for Dons' fifth straight win on Tuesday night, top-scorer Scott Twine to the side as Liam Manning made three changes from the team which started against Cheltenham. Twine replaced Theo Corbeanu, while Daniel Harvie returned from suspension to take over from injured Tennai Watson, and Matt Smith missed out on a third start for the club as Josh McEachran came back in.

With so much made of the importance of the clash for both sides, there was an air of expectation that it would turn into a classic but the first half was a bit of a disappointment. A messy and scrappy affair ensued as neither side were able to really get into a flow.

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Fouls were certainly a more common sight than shots on goal with referee Roberty Madley trying to allow the game to flow, but there was only so much he could do with the physical challenges flying in from both sides.

When he did let the game play on, Scott Twine fed Mo Eisa through the middle but his strike was blocked by Jack Whatmough, who shadowed him throughout the opening 45 minutes.

At the other end, Callum Lang's loose touch let Wigan's best opening go, with keeper Jamie Cumming easily gathering.

The second half was a different proposition though, and from the off was a more lively affair. Dons, usually slow in the opening stages of second halves, came out the box on the front foot and had a couple of sights of goal, first forcing keeper Amos to swipe a cross away before Eisa came close.

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But the opening goal would come at the other end on 58 minutes. A long-range and speculative effort from Tom Pearce took a wicked deflection off Parrott and fell kindly into the path of Tom Naylor who stuck it past Cumming despite fruitless appeals for offside from the Dons defence.

Try as they might though, Dons simply could not find a way through and looked to be heading for their first defeat since January. Manning's substitutions though would be key in making sure that did not happen though.

David Kasumu, Theo Corbeanu and Hiram Boateng sparked Dons into life and gave them some -needed bite in the final third as they dragged them up the field.

With the clock ticking down though, chances continued to evade Dons but with three minutes to go, Harry Darling rose above the Wigan defence equalise to power home his eighth goal of the season to earn a point for his side.

Referee: Robert Madley

Attendance: 11,193

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MK Dons: Cumming, Lewington (Boateng 85), O'Hora, Darling, Kesler-Hayden, Harvie, Coventry, McEachran (Kasumu 65), Twine, Parrott, Eisa (Corbeanu 75)

Subs not used: Ravizzoli, Smith, Kemp, Davies

Wigan Athletic: Amoas, Pearce (Bayliss 90), Naylor, Whatmough, Power, Keane, Massey (McGrath 84), Kerr, TIlt, Lang, Humphrys (Magennis 84)

Subs not used: Jones, Watts, Edwards, Bayliss, Bennett

Booked: Massey, Lang, McEachran, Kasumu, Tilt