SOME managers would have been delighted with a point at Exeter City given Dons’ away record - but not Karl Robinson.
While the 1-1 scoreline at St James’ Park may look on the surface like a great result against a tough Grecians side, it does not tell the whole story.
After the disappointment of losing away at Yeovil last week, Robinson’s men started poorly, and could have been two goals down before 35-year-old Jamie Cureton rolled back the years to delicately chip over the head of David Martin in the eighth minute.
But from then on Dons rarely looked in trouble. Dan Powell - back in the starting line-up after missing his side’s defeat at Huish Park - had two great chances to pull Dons level, while Sam Baldock, Lewis Guy and Michael McIndoe all saw long range efforts go wide. Baldock also had an effort cleared off the line.
At the other end Scott Golbourne had home fans off their seats when his rasping left-footed effort flew narrowly over the crossbar, and Richard Logan came close too, but his chest down showed better technique than the volley that followed.
Dons continued to dominate proceedings into the second half, but it wasn’t until the introduction of Luke Chadwick and then Jabo Ibehre that the visitors finally made the breakthrough.
Chadwick broke down the left and sent a high ball into the box for the big frontman to head goalwards with only his second touch, nestling neatly in the far side of the net to equalise with 17 minutes left on the clock.
Ibehre’s first league goal of the season kicked the game into life, as both sides had chances to win it late on. Chadwick found space in the area, but his shot was weak and easily collected by Exeter keeper Paul Jones, and fellow sub Adam Chicksen fired an effort towards goal after some neat work gave him space on the edge of the area.
But Exeter weren’t happy with a point either, as Bertie Cozic’s 25-yarder swirled in-front of Martin who could only parry it away. With just seconds remaining, Gary MacKenzie gave away a needless freekick on the edge of the box, but Ryan Harley’s shot was straight at the wall and cleared to secure Dons’ first away draw of the season.
After the game, boss Robinson said he was disappointed to have come away with just a point as his side avoided slipping to a 10th league defeat on the road.
He said: “I think it should have been much more. We created so many chances
“It’s amazing how you can go from Yeovil last week to what we saw here - it’s night and day.
“I felt we played the ball well and made it very difficult for a really good team. It’s a really tough place to come to get a result, and I felt we dominated a lot of the game.
“I’m disappointed that we’re only coming away with a point, but pleased at the same time because this is a tough place to come, and if you’d offered me a point before the game, I’d probably have taken it.”
Ibehre’s first league goal of the campaign has been a long time in the making, but the manager is delighted with his contribution to the team, if not in the goal scoring stakes.
“He’s a wonderful man and a pleasure to work with,” Robinson said. “He deserves that goal for the amount of work he puts in. The fans love him because he loves it here and wants to play here.”
The result sees Dons in eighth place in the table, level on points with Sheffield Wednesday in the final play-off spot.
Player Ratings: Martin - 7 - great saves kept Dons in it early on. Woodards - 7 - overlapped well with Powell. Doumbe - 7 - dominant in the air. MacKenzie - 7 - put good pressure on Logan. Lewington - 7 - another solid performance. Gleeson - 8 - continued his great festive-period form. Leven - 7 - worked hard in the engine room. Powell - 7 - passionate display from the youngster. Guy - 6 - went quiet in the second half. McIndoe - 6 - gave the ball away a lot in the first half. Baldock - 6 - chased hard with little reward. Subs: Chadwick - 7 - great cross to set up the goal. Ibehre - 7 - gave Dons a different option up front. Chicksen - 6 - still finding his feet at this level.