A dramatic Daniel Powell equaliser deep into stoppage time rescued Dons from sinking to the foot of the Championship table as they salvaged a 1-1 draw with Bristol City on Saturday.
Bobby Reid picked Antony Kay’s pocket after just five minutes to burst clear, sliding in Jonathan Kodjia for the simplest of finishes at Ashton Gate as City climbed off the bottom of the standings, leaving Karl Robinson’s men to replace them.
The game was distinctly void of the qualities which saw both sides earn automatic promotion from League 1 last season, instead very much resembling a scrappy battle at the opposite end of the league.
But Powell’s sensational curling strike in the fourth minute of time added on ensured Dons would avoid the indignity of being both top and bottom in their first 10 games in the second tier.
The margins couldn’t have been tighter at kick off, with both sides knowing the loser would spend the next two weeks at the foot of the Championship, courtesy of the international break. For Dons, they were also staring at six straight defeats and their task was made even harder after just five minutes as they fell behind.
Antony Kay’s mistake gifted the ball to Bobby Reid 35 yards out, and he breezed through to draw out David Martin. But with Jonathan Kodjia in support, he was afforded a simple finish into the empty net to give City an early lead.
With the wind in their sails, and the crowd behind them, City enjoyed a positive spell of pressure with Kodjia, Reid and the ever-threatening Luke Freeman the main protagonists at the heart of everything going forwards.
But as has been the trend during the recent run of defeats Dons settled down and looked, on the balance of things, the more comfortable. Their best chance came on 24 minutes, when Ben Reeves’ deft control allowed him to flick Josh Murphy in behind the City defence. But overrunning the ball, he was forced to cut back to Reeves, though the Northern Irish international’s cross seeking Simon Church was easily gathered by Frank Fielding.
The midfield battle was picky and niggly, with some late tackles breaking up play unnecessarily. Tempers flared when Luke Ayling took exception to Jake Forster-Caskey’s fierce collision with Reid, prompting both sides to defend their own. Forster-Caskey was booked, as was City’s Aden Flint for his role in the skirmish.
Goal-scorer Kodjia was proving a real thorn in the side for Dons, but he’d go in at the break feeling slightly aggrieved his hard work went unrewarded four minutes before half time. Skipping past Kay’s initial challenge, he then turned McFadzean inside out before teeing up Freeman on the penalty spot. But seemingly in a rush, Freeman swiped his strike well over the top of Martin’s bar, letting Dons off the hook.
He went it alone on the stroke of half time in almost a carbon copy of his run four minutes earlier, but Martin was a match for his strike on goal, palming it away at his near post.
Ben Reeves started the second half brightly though and forced Fielding to dive high to his left to tip over a powerful drive arrowing for the top corner, though the keeper barely had to take note of Josh Murphy’s effort which was high, wide and far from handsome.
Simon Church had a chance-less opening 45 minutes as he struggled to get into the game. And it was shaping up to be a similar story for the striker in the second too, as balls aimed in his direction went sailing over his head.
But he came within inches of equalising for the visitors just after the hour mark when he got the deftest of touches on Dean Lewington’s ball into the mixer, only to see it come back off the frame of the goal.
It would be his last involvement as he was replaced by Rob Hall, while Jordan Spence made way for former Bristol City man Nicky Maynard, who was met with a hostile reception. But Hall was almost instantly the hero when he tried his luck from 25 yards out, forcing Fielding into a fine stop down low to his left.
But while they dominated the possession stats in the second period, the telling chance never really appeared for Robinson’s side. Martin was a passenger for the large part, but with City in the lead, they looked content to let Dons come at them rather than force the issue and go for a second.
In the end, it was a tactic which would haunt them as Dons snatched a point in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Picking the ball up on the left flank, substitute Powell cut onto his right foot and bent a beautiful effort around Fielding’s despairing dive to keep Dons off the foot of the table.
Referee: Darren Bond
Attendance: 14,535 (425)
Bristol City: Fielding, Little, Flint, Ayling, Reid, Freeman (Robinson 80), N Baker, Wilbraham (Agard 82), Pack, Kodjia, Bryan (Williams 66)
Subs not used: Hamer, El-Abd, Wagstaff, Burns
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Kay, McFadzean, Spence (Maynard 70), Poyet, Forster-Caskey, Murphy (Powell 80), C Baker, Reeves, Church (Hall 70)
Subs not used: Burns, Hodson, Gallagher, Rasulo,
Booked: Lewington, Forster-Caskey, Flint, Bryan, Poyet, Baker