It ended all square when third met fourth in League 1 on Saturday, as Dons and Preston shared the points at Deepdale.
Carl Baker gave Dons the lead seven minutes before half time, sliding home Dele Alli’s powerful low cross. But Preston were adamant not to lose ground in the League 1 promotion race, and battled their way back into the game, courtesy of Scott Wiseman’s fierce strike midway through the second half, meaning both teams held station in the league standings.
Karl Robinson could name a full-strength side for the trip to Deepdale, with only Mark Randall missing out through injury. There was one change to the side which lost 1-0 to Chesterfield in the FA Cup last Saturday, with Ben Reeves replacing Will Grigg in the hole behind Benik Afobe.
Dons could’ve had two goals inside the opening eight minutes, despite seeing less of the ball than the home side. First, having beaten the offside trap, Benik Afobe raced down the left flank and picked out Daniel Powell at the far post. Cutting back, Powell bent a right footed effort towards the top corner, forcing Thorsten Stuckmann into a fine finger-tip save. From the corner, Kyle McFadzean headed across to centre-back partner Antony Kay, but his swinging volley was narrowly over the top.
Preston looked the more threatening of the two sides in the opening exchanges, keen to capitalise on Jermaine Beckford’s pace and Kevin Davies’ brute force. Having narrowly missed out on a Beckford nod down seconds earlier, Davies wasted a glorious chance to put the home side ahead after 19 minutes. Darren Potter slipped on the edge of the box and allowed Beckford free access. Squaring to Davies, it looked like a formality to score, but he incredibly hit it high into the stand - a huge let off for the visitors.
The roles were reversed 10 minutes later when Davies nodded down for Beckford to shoot, but he was under pressure from McFadzean, but still managed to forced Martin into a save low to his right.
While the home side looked the more dangerous going forwards, Dons looked far more assured on the ball, and were certainly the more composed side. Preston’s desperation to get forward at the earliest opportunity played into the hands of Kay and McFadzean, who picked off balls lumped their way. Afobe though was left to feed on scraps for much of the first half.
Having been fairly anonymous for the opening 38 minutes, Dele Alli made his impact felt by teeing up Carl Baker for the opener just before the break. A neat interchange with Dean Lewington on the left set free the 18-year-old. Bursting into the area, he fired the ball into the six yard box knowing a touch would take it goalwards, and the touch came from Baker, sliding it in in front of the travelling Dons support.
Preston could, and indeed should have been level within five minutes of the restart. Paul Gallagher wasted a good chance by firing straight at Martin eight yards out, while the keeper needed to be on top of his game to keep out Paul Huntington’s effort, flying to his left to tip it out for a corner.
The home side continued to turn the screw, but their finishing left a lot to be desired. Beckford headed into the side netting from a good Gallagher cross from the left, while Davies twice headed straight into the arms of Martin.
Afobe, still toiling away up from, could have made things much more comfortable just after the hour mark when set through by Jordan Spence, but pulled his shot wide of the mark in a rare Dons break forwards.
The goal did eventually come for the home side though, courtesy of Scott Wiseman’s 68th minute equaliser. Beckford’s header looked like it was heading out of play, but Davies kept it in, teeing up the full-back to rifle home a powerful drive into the far corner to level things up. It was the first goal Dons had conceded on the road since the 3-2 defeat against Bristol City in early October.
It was backs to the wall for Dons after that as Preston piled on the pressure to seek the winner. Their chances came and went, but nothing really tested Martin until a Davies header four minutes from the end forced him into a good diving stop.
But with Dons’ defence standing firm all afternoon, Preston were left to settle for just a point.
It could have been less for them though, with Samir Carruthers and Darren Potter both coming close for the visitors in stoppage time.
Referee: David Coote
Attendance: 9,856 (322)
Preston: Stuckmann, Laird, Wiseman, Clarke, Humphrey (Reid 64), Kilkenny, Davies, Beckford (Little 84), Gallagher, Welsh, Huntington
Subs not used: Jones, Wood, King, Brownhill, Browne
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, McFadzean, Kay, Spence, Potter, Alli, Baker, Powell (Carruthers 78), Reeves (Bowditch 72), Afobe (Grigg 90)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Hodson, Green, Baldock
Booked: Wiseman, McFadzean, Spence