MK Dons boss Robbie Neilson praises second half performance in Southend draw

Robbie Neilson was happy with his side's comeback in the 1-1 draw against Southend. Picture by Jane Russell
Robbie Neilson was happy with his side's comeback in the 1-1 draw against Southend. Picture by Jane Russell

Robbie Neilson praised the spirit of his players to come back from a disappointing first half and gain a draw against Southend United.

In a miserable first 45 minutes at stadiummk, Dons failed to truly test Southend keeper Mark Oxley, and were reliant on Lee Nicholls to make an early penalty save from Josh Wright.

Stephen McLaughlin fired the visitors into a lead, before Nicholls denied the midfielder a second on the cusp of half-time.

But a much improved second half performance saw Kieran Agard covert from the spot with 15 minutes left after Chuks Aneke was brought down in the box.

And it is the second period that Neilson was happy to concentrate on post-match.

He said: "The second half was far better, we weren’t at it in the first half. They pressed us, but our quality in the pass wasn’t great.

"We were far better in the second half, we were the better team and created numerous chances, and could have ended up winning it."

The Dons boss was far from impressed with the early decision to award Phil Brown's side a penalty, after referee Tim Robinson judged Scott Wootton to have pulled a shirt in the box.

And the gaffer added: "That was the worst performance I’ve seen referee wise. I don’t want to sit here and focus on that because you’re wasting your time, it’s done and dusted. But some of the stuff tonight was ridiculous. But we weren’t good enough in the first half anyway, and we didn’t merit anything from it.

"I thought there was a little more consistency from the referee in the second half, which helped us."

On having to make a number of changes to his side, the boss added: "I couldn’t fault the work rate of the players, and the lads who came in. Yes, we were missing some key players, we had injuries and three suspensions, but the boys worked hard and they are part of a group that works hard for each other."

Nevertheless, making better starts to games is something Neilson has pinpointed may require a little bit more work.

He said: "You find that we try and play teams and the press extremely high on us and are straight in our faces. We have to make it more difficult for them and do the other side of the game, and it’s something we need to improve on and be a bit less predictable in our play.

"But in the end I think we had some chances to win, but so did Southend when we failed to clear our lines. They caused us some problems with their physicality and set-plays, so both teams can say they could have won the game.

"We’re disappointed not to take three points because it’s a home game, but after the first half performance and fighting back and showing spirit, it’s another point on the board. And it continues the good form."

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