A brace from Sam Baldock once was a phrase Dons fans were keen to hear, but not on Saturday as his two strikes for Bristol City held Karl Robinson’s men to a 2-2 draw at stadium:mk.
Baldock was the hero for City, scoring in each half as the visitors twice led. But equalisers first from Patrick Bamford and then Samir Carruthers pulled Dons back into the fight in a thrilling second half.
Despite rumours of illness and injury, George Baldock was given a start against former Don, and his brother, Sam amid a week of media hype surrounding the fixture. Dons though were light in numbers and could only name five substitutes after Tom Flanagan went down injured in training and Ben Reeves failed to recover from the knock which ruled him out of the last game against Preston North End.
As Karl Robinson requested, Sam received a warm reception from the home supporters, but the sentimentality ended there as he had City’s first chance of the game - a low drive from 25 yards which skipped off the wet surface neatly into the hands of David Martin.
Neither side looked especially better than the other in the opening 20 minutes, with both using their wide men to inject a lot of pace into the midfield battle. City probably had the better of the chances, despite Jay Emmanuel-Thomas sailing one into row Z. Their best effort came from a corner to the far post which Aden Flint rose highest to meet, though his header crashed against the upright.
At the other end, Dons offered relatively little in terms of attacking threats, but Jason Banton, fresh from scoring a screamer against Preston last Saturday, was keen to try his arm from range again with two efforts well off the mark. Patrick Bamford also rattled the wrong side of the net when he got on the end of a good ball from Stephen Gleeson.
Throughout the game the home fans were singing the name of their former number 10, but ultimately, it would be him to net Bristol’s opening goal. After a good break and cross from the right from Joe Bryan, the ball rattled around in the box before sitting up nicely for Baldock, who showed no signs of sentimentality by blasting into the back of Martin’s net to put Bristol into the lead.
A goal was exactly what the game needed to inject some spice into the affair, but it didn’t. Dons in particular looked lost for ideas going forward, and struggled to make any headway and had to settle for a 1-0 reverse at the break.
But it took just seven minutes of the second half for a rejuvenated Dons to get back on level terms. After a far-from-vintage performance at Preston, Patrick Bamford reminded everyone of his qualities in front of goal, though the move was all about Luke Chadwick. Picking the ball up in the centre circle, he brilliantly spun his man and raced on to the edge of the area. Spotting Bamford’s run, he slid the Chelsea man through, who fired across City keeper Frank Fielding with his first touch into the bottom corner.
Dons were a new entity in the second half, led by Stephen Gleeson. The skipper was barking out orders and putting in the miles as he tracked box-to-box, popping up all over the pitch with vital tackles and hold-up play.
But it was Bristol who came closest to regaining the lead when Bobby Reid intercepted from Jon Otsemobor on the edge of the box, but his shot on the turn was just over the top, not that a full-stretch Martin was getting to it.
For all Dons’ momentum though, they were undone by some simple route one football to that man Baldock again. A long ball lumped up to the striker saw him evade the offside trap and race through on goal. He didn’t need a second invitation to smash home his second of the game to put Bristol a goal up once more.
But the lead barely lasted five minutes as Dons’ substitutes combined to get them level once more. Dele Alli, who replaced Lee Hodson, picked up the ball in the middle of the park and drove forward. With the crowd baying for him to shoot, he knocked it left to Samir Carruthers, who had taken Banton’s place out side, with the outside of his left boot, bent the ball into the opposite corner. It was a cracking finish to bring Dons level, and one that brought stadium:mk to life.
It put the game on a knife-edge for the remaining 15 minutes with both sides looking dangerous going forward. There were good penalty appeals at both ends turned away by referee Graham Salisbury, and there were some great passing moves let down by the final ball.
Sam Baldock though fluffed his lines with 12 minutes remaining. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas managed to get a glimpse of goal and whipped in a strike from the edge of the area. Martin did well to get down to it but parried it as far as Sam Baldock. With the Hollywood ending in his eyes, Baldock incredibly miscontrolled the ball, allowing it to roll under his feet, forcing him back away from goal, averting danger.
Martin’s counterpart Fielding needed to be at his very best to keep out Shaun Williams’ 88th minute free kick. At full-stretch he tipped the ball onto the post, but incredibly, the loose ball didn’t drop to a white shirt.
Fielding had to gobble up stoppage time strikes from both Darren Potter and Bamford, but it wasn’t to be Dons’ day as they had to eventually settle for another point.
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Attendance: 7,874 (1,082)
MK Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, Hodson (Alli 60), Williams, Kay, Gleeson, Potter, Chadwick (McLeod 74), Banton (Carruthers 53), Baldock, Bamford
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Smith
Bristol City: Fielding, Moloney, Williams, Flint, Baldock, Emmanual-Thomas (Harewood 90), Wagstaff, Reid (Wynter 76), Bryan (Pack 90), Cunningham, Elliot
Subs not used: Parrish, Fontaine, Killkenny, Burns