KARL Robinson was left ruing missed chances as Dons came from behind to draw 1-1 at home to struggling Walsall on Friday night.
Matt Richards opened the scoring with half an hour played, but Peter Leven’s cheeky penalty seven minutes into the second half set the scene for Dons’ bombardment on the Saddlers’ goal.
Angelo Balanta made a welcome return to first team action after being sidelined with an ankle injury since November and should have scored with his second touch of the night, but incredibly hit the crossbar from point-blank range as Dons failed to break through Walsall’s stout defences.
Rowan Vine and Daniel Powell both started brightly as Dons went about searching for the opener, and both managed to get shots off inside the first five minutes, although neither troubled Walsall keeper Jimmy Walker
But Walsall, slow in getting started, began to pressure the home side with a series of efforts from range courtesy of Emmanuel Ledesma, and it was they who took the lead on the half hour.
Julian Gray turned inside Danny Woodards to fire a right-footed shot at goal, which David Martin did well to keep out, but Richards was on hand to neatly chip over the stricken keeper handing the visitors a 1-0 lead which they held until the break.
Robinson’s half time talk clearly lit a fire under Dons because they came out all guns blazing in the second period, and they were back on level terms shortly after the interval.
On 50 minutes Manny Smith’s rash challenge bought down Luke Chadwick in the penalty area, leaving referee Dave Phillips with no option but to point to the spot. Leven confidently stepped up and cheekily dinked the ball past Walker to bring the sides level.
Gray hit the crossbar in a rare Walsall counter attack, although the half was dominated by Dons, but headlined by a series of misses that would have put the home side high and dry.
Sam Baldock had a great chance to put Dons ahead when a slip from Andy Butler allowed him to latch onto Vine’s pass but, one-on-one, he fired straight at Walker.
But the chance of the game fell to Balanta just minutes after coming on. Lewington’s deep cross was headed back across goal by Woodards and it seemed a formality for Baldock to put the chance away from a yard out. However, the striker’s effort was cleared off the line - falling kindly to Balanta who hammered the ball goalwards from just four yards out, and incredibly saw it come back off the underside of the bar before being hoisted away by the Walsall defence.
But despite seeing the result as two points dropped, the Dons boss will take heart as Dons’ League One play-off rivals continue to falter, and in fact his side increased their advantage over seventh placed Leyton Orient to eight points as they lost to Yeovil. However, Robinson said he was still disappointed not to have made it six wins on the bounce.
He said: “I thought we did enough to win two matches. We missed chance after chance and I spent most of the game with my hands on my head.
“I’ve been told it (Balanta’s chance) was over the line, but he really should have scored and Sam (Baldock) should have scored before that.
“Sam also should have scored his one-on-one chance, and Stephen Gleeson had a gilt-edged chance, Chadwick had a chance and Jabo (Ibehre) had a header he should have done better with. I don’t think they created many chances other than shots from the edge of the box.”
The result extended Dons’ unbeaten run to eight games in a dramatic turn-around since the start of 2011 which has seen them catapulted into the League One play-off places. And going unbeaten in March is something Robinson was particularly proud of after the game - a month notoriously difficult for Dons in previous seasons.
“It was a frustrating night for us all,” Robinson said. “But we’re unbeaten in March. If you’d have offered me four wins and a draw at the beginning of the month I would have jumped on you!
“Everyone knows March has never been a good month for this club. People would have looked at this fixture and said it was the one you’d bank on getting three points. But they have bolstered their squad recently with some quality signings from the Championship.
“The positives are that Angelo Balanta came on, and we had glimpses of his quality, but he’s not match fit. Had we won that game 4-1, people would be praising the performance, but with the quality we had on show, we should have taken our chances.
“Teams wants to come here and play a different way - sitting behind the ball for long periods and that is what Walsall did. But we were still able to make chances.
“I’ll let the Walsall manager moan like he has been, but I think everyone saw the ball was clearly over the line and he needs to take a good look at some of the other decisions, because we should have won that game.”