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Brave Dons robbed by last minute equaliser

Scorer Peter Leven

By Oli
February 28 2009

Dons turned in one of their best performances of the season against a very ordinary looking top of the table Leicester City, but came away with only a point after Max Gradel's late, late free-kick broke Dons hearts.

Gradel curled in well in to the already lengthy five minutes of added time after referee Andy Penn had awarded Leicester a very generous free-kick for a foul on Matt Fryatt.

In front of a club record 17,717 fans Fryatt had given the Foxes the lead in the fourth minute, but after a pretty shambolic start the Dons responded with what was one of their best performances of the season, as Peter Leven's two goals put them ahead before Gradel's heartbreaking equaliser.

Leicester were by far the quicker side out of the blocks and after some very questionable Dons defending left-back Joe Mattock broke into the box but dragged his shot well wide of goal. Just a minute later the deadlock was broken as Fryatt netted with a superb individual effort, wriggling his way past Miguel Llera and across goal before rolling the ball into Willy Gueret's far corner.

From then on it was all Dons. Luke Chadwick was MK's brightest player in the early stages, first shooting wide from the edge of the box and then missing what was, to be honest, an absolute sitter after a cute ball from Wilbraham had found the winger in the area. About eight yards out, Chadwick got too much on his shot across goal and the ball sailed wide.

As the half wore on the Dons defence was looking more and more comfortable, with Carl Regan in particular absolutely outstanding at right-back. Also impressive was Jason Puncheon, playing just off Wilbraham, who really came into the game after a quiet opening 20 minutes. And it was Wilbraham and Puncheon who combined next, the former's cross skidding across the six-yard box with Puncheon just unable to poke it in.

After a couple of decent efforts from Wilbraham for the Dons, Leicester came back into the match a little with decent chances for Fryatt and Steve Howard both blocked. Dons fans maybe began to wonder if their side would pay for the missed chances, but those fears were wiped away in the 36th minute as some lovely play between Puncheon and Wilbraham saw the latter tee up Leven, who from 20 yards stroked the ball into Mark Bunn's far corner. The goalkeeper might have done better, but the move deserved a goal.

After Gueret had saved comfortably from Howard the Dons nearly found themselves ahead just before half-time. Jemal Johnson's corner was punched by Bunn only as far as the lurking Puncheon, who's drive was cleared off the line by Foxes captain Matt Oakley.

A first half Roberto Di Matteo's men could be very pleased with. Leicester certainly had some quality, with Fryatt a tricky customer and midfielder Bruno Berner showing a lot of class, but they hadn't really troubled the Dons, the opening five minutes aside, and MK were probably value for more than a 1-1 draw at the interval.

The Dons started the second half as they had finished off the first, with Johnson and Puncheon creating half-chances that Wilbraham and Lewington respectively couldn't quite reach. And after nearly 20 minutes of pretty much all Dons possession, Leven gave MK a fully deserved lead. Another neat ball from Wilbraham into the box was this time taken advantage of, as Leven raced in and although his first effort was stopped, the rebound bounced straight off his chest and looped over Bunn to put the Dons a goal up.

Shortly after the goal the referee produced his first debatable decision of what would go on to be a fair few, only booking Howard for a dreadful challenge on Llera on the halfway line. In fairness, it probably would have been a slightly harsh red, but not a totally unjustified one.

Some might lament the Dons' cautious approach as creating unnecessary Leicester pressure late on, but to be honest, for up until about the 95th minute it worked. The first indication that Di Matteo had decided to shut up shop came with the introduction of Jude Stirling for Chadwick, with Regan pushing up to right-wing and Jude taking his spot in defence.

Although Leicester started to see more of the ball, very few forward raids looked like causing the Dons any problems. And MK were still looking dangerous on the counter-attack, with Johnson firing into the side netting after 74 minutes.

After 78 minutes Gradel was introduced for Mattock, and immediately the speedy winger looked a threat, forcing Gueret to save well down to the 'keeper's right, but it was the first testing save Willy had had to make since Fryatt's opener.

To pretty much everyone in the stadium's surprise, the fourth official indicated five minutes to be added on, and with five played Gradel curled in to rescue the Foxes an undeserved point.

Dons: Gueret; Regan, O'Hanlon, Llera (Belson 90), Lewington; Johnson, Navarro, Leven, Puncheon (Baldock 90), Chadwick (Stirling 72); Wilbraham.

Unused subs: Abbey, Gerba.

Booked: Johnson.

Goals: Leven 36, 62.

Leicester: Bunn; Gilbert, Morrison, Brown (Powell 86), Mattock (Gradel 78); Oakley, King, Berner, Dyer (Cleverley 60); Fryatt, Howard.

Unused subs: Dickov, Pentney.

Booked: Howard.

Goals: Fryatt 4, Gradel 90.

Attendance: 17,717.

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Brave Dons robbed by last minute equaliser
Dons Online (IP Logged)
28/02/2009 18:22
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