KARL Robinson was sent to the stands once again as Dons and Sheffield Wednesday shared the spoils of a 1-1 draw at a freezing stadium:mk.
Both sides were somewhat fortunate to score in the first half. Luke Chadwick opened the scoring for Dons after 15 minutes when his shot came back off the crossbar and struck Wednesday keeper Stephen Bywater to bounce in before Gary MacKenzie put into his own net for the second time in a week 11 minutes later.
The messy encounter, not helped by a whistle-happy referee came to life in the second half, with both sides looking to snatch victory. But an incident on the touchline saw Karl Robinson sent off seven minutes from time for his part in a scuffle between Reda Johnson and Stephen Gleeson.
Dons announced the signing of full-back James Tavernier before the game, and the release by mutual consent of Anthony McNamee on a busy transfer deadline day, which promised another late twist in the tale.
Alan Smith started his MK Dons career on the bench, while Adam Chicksen returned from his loan spell with Leyton Orient last week and went straight into the starting line-up with Adam Smith departing to Leeds and Tavernier ineligible to play.
Wednesday started very much on the front foot, winning a series of corners, but it was the home side who created the first chance on goal. Chris Sedgwick’s corner was cleared at one end and allowed Dean Bowditch to break from his own half. Exchanging a neat one-two with Charlie MacDonald, Bowditch’s effort from the edge of the box was tame and straight at Owls stopper Stephen Bywater.
Dons have been lamenting their lack of luck lately, but they were handed a huge slice of it when Luke Chadwick fired in after 15 minutes. His shot looked to be heading over, but cruelly struck the crossbar before ricocheting in off the back of the unlucky Bywater’s legs.
The goal lifted the home side, and the crowd, after a somewhat quiet start and they began to assert themselves on the game. MacDonald was unlucky not to test the goalkeeper as he charged through on goal, and but for Danny Batth’s last ditch challenge he could have doubled the lead after 20 minutes.
Wednesday though were level six minutes later, and Dons were left cursing lady luck once more. Sedgwick’s initial corner was cleared back to him, and his return cross appeared to beat everyone but in the melee, the ball came off Gary MacKenzie’s foot as it dropped at the far post, beating Martin to score his second own goal in as many games. The keeper though felt he had a good case of obstruction as he tried to catch the cross.
The first half wore on with neither side really taking the initiative and pushing on. As a result, it turned into a scrappy, bitty affair with a lot of nothing fouls given away in the centre of the park and both sets of centre halves winning over the forwards. A high shot from Chris O’Grady was the only action of note after the goal as both sides looked happy to go in at the break level pegging.
Wednesday started the brightest and twice came close in the opening two minutes – one header cleared off the line by Stephen Gleeson, the other just over the bar from two consecutive corners.
Chicksen was unlucky to be withdrawn five minutes into the second half with a gash on his head, but it allowed Robinson to show off his marquee signing as Alan Smith entered the fray, with Chadwick slotting in at right back.
A series of questionable decisions went against both sides as referee James Liddington seemed to take his eye off the game, booking Tom Flanagan despite clearly winning the tackle cleanly and letting Wednesday off the hook when Jose Semedo scythed Shaun Williams down in the box after a free-kick taken too quickly for the referee’s liking.
Charlie MacDonald was having a torrid time up on his own and struggled to make an impact on the imposing figures of Batth and Llera in the Wednesday back line. So with 23 minutes remaining, Robinson threw on Jabo Ibehre to take his place to add some muscle up front.
The change of tactics from both sides saw the game transform into an open, end-to-end tussle with neither side looking too keen on settling for a point in the freezing conditions.
There were tense moments at both ends too, with Llera nearly lobbing his keeper as Ibehre chased down a long ball and Gleeson being let off the book when O’Grady over-hit his pass in a three-on-two.
The game’s most controversial moment came with seven minutes remaining. When Gleeson and Reda Johnson clashed and fell into the Dons dugout, Robinson appeared to split the pair apart, but in the melee Johnson fell to the floor as Robinson loomed angrily over him. Referee Liddington consulted with his linesman before sending the manager to the stands for the second time this year.
Clinton Morrison returned to the stadium:mk pitch with four minutes remaining to inject some late pace to the Wednesday attack, but had little impact on proceedings as the clock ran out.
The result sees Dons remain fifth in League 1 but are now six points off the automatic promotion spots.