Late Morrison strike spares MacKenzie’s blushes

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DONS were lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw from Saturday’s game with Bournemouth after a howler from Gary MacKenzie almost gifted the away side victory in the second half.

Angelo Balanta put Dons ahead three minutes before the break in a half which the home side dominated, but couldn’t break the Bournemouth resolve. Wesley Thomas equalised from Warren Cummings’ free-kick on the hour before a shocking mistake from Gary MacKenzie gifted Thomas his second with 18 minutes remaining. But MacKenzie made up fro his earlier error by heading back across goal for Clinton Morrison to bundle the ball over the line with 10 minutes remaining to earn a point for Dons.

Robinson described Monday’s performance as ‘the worst this season’ but he only made one change to the starting line-up – Adam Smith returned from international duty with England’s U21s to replace Mathias Doumbe who dropped to the bench. Charlie MacDonald also made the bench after a thigh injury kept him out since early September.

And it was a fairly subdude opening with little action at either end, but Cherries skipper Adam Barrett nearly kick-started the game in the 13th minute with a brilliant left-footed curling effort on the turn, forcing David Martin to save at full stretch to keep the ball out.

At the other end, keeper Darryl Flavavan remained untested, but Darren Potter’s shot after 20 minutes did have him diving to his right, though his low drive was well wide.

While there was little going in the way of chances on goal, Dons were very much on top of the midfield battle, with Potter pulling the strings from the centre. Gary MacKenzie and Mark Beevers also looked very comfortable against the lone Bournemouth striker Wesley Thomas.

Dons were beginning to put together some promising moves in the attacking third, with their three-pronged attack causing all manner of problems across the face of goal, though seemed reluctant to shoot in good positions.

Angelo Balanta though tested his range a few times in the first half, but while none of his three decent efforts found the target, he was very much Dons’ biggest threat in the opening 45 minutes.

He was at the centre of a move which forced Flahavan into his first save too, coming on the half hour. In acres on the left, the Colombian cut inside on the edge of the area, shaped to shoot, but passed wide to Stephen Gleeson who fired in a shot, but it was straight at the Bournemouth keeper, who saved low.

From there, the away side countered, but despite having plenty of opportunities to pull the trigger inside the area, Thomas seemed keen to turn MacKenzie one more time, and eventually was tackled by Dean Lewington tracking back.

But it was that man Balanta who put Dons in front with three minutes to play in the first half. After brilliantly holding up the ball in the centre, he played the ball back to Potter, who whipped it wide to Lewington in space. The skipper stopped before crossing in low to the near post where it was met by Balanta, sending the ball through Flahavan’s legs and into the net giving Dons the lead.

Bournemouth survived a penalty claim just a minute after the goal when Bowditch appeared to be barged to the floor, but the appeals were waved away by the referee.

With the bit between their teeth, Dons continued to press before the break – a quickly taken free-kick saw Chadwick and Morrison link up before the ball came to Balanta on the edge of the area, but his placed effort went just wide – Dons could have had three goals in three minutes, but had to settle for a one goal lead at the interval.

And Dons took that momentum with them into the second half and within seconds of the restart, Bowditch got on the end of Lewington’s deep cross, but Flahavan kept his out effort, though he didn’t know much about it as it hit him and ricocheted off the post.

As the game settled, Dons remained on the front foot and largely unchallenged by Lee Bradbury’s side, who were restricted to counter-attacks. At the other end, Clinton Morrison wasn’t having much better luck as his first touch seemed to evade him.

Dons really should have been two up though when Smith overlapped with Chadwick on the right and sent in a brilliant ball to the far post, but with the goal gaping, Bowditch sent his header narrowly over.

Flahavan was having a busy time between the Bournemouth sticks and was tested from range by Mark Beevers – the defender made a powerful run forward before striking from range, forcing the keeper to tip it wide for a corner.

And Dons were made to pay for their missed chances on the hour mark when Warren Cummings’ free-kick bounced dangerously in the area, and Wesley Thomas was there to head home from close range, equalising very much against the run of play.

Dons kept the pressure up as they about retaking the lead, but it was a horrible mistake from MacKenzie that put Bournemouth ahead with 18 minutes remaining. The defender, under no pressure, played the ball across the penalty area straight to Wesley Thomas who rounded Beevers and rifled home from inside the area to give the away side an unlikely lead.

Substitute Daniel Powell forced Flahavan into a great low save as the home side went about finding an equaliser, and it came with 10 minutes to go. Lewington once again crossed deep and found MacKenzie who powerfully headed back across goal for Morrison to bundle home and lift the crowd for a grandstand finish.

But as hard as Dons tried, they struggled to make any impression on the goal and had to settle for a point on a day when they really should have had all three wrapped up in the first half.

Next up for Dons is Scunthorpe at stadium:mk on Saturday.

Referee: Adcock

Attendance: 8,927

MK Dons: Martin, Smith, Lewington, MacKenzie, Beevers, Gleeson, Potter, Bowditch (Powell, 71), Balanta, Chadwick (MacDonald, 74), Morrison

Subs not used: Doumbe, Williams, McNamee, MacDonald

Bournemouth: Flahavan, Barrett, Peters (Fogden, 90), Purches, Cummings, Zubar, Cooper (Symes, 46), Pugh, Arter, Gregory, Thomas (Partington, 76)

Subs not used: Jalal, Fletcher