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Baldock goal not enough as Dons slip up

Sam Baldock

By Oli
March 11 2009

Sam Baldock's first goal since December wasn't enough to hand the Dons three points as Huddersfield took a point from their visit to Milton Keynes in a 1-1 draw. Michael Flynn's goal, not the first late equaliser in recent weeks, cancelled out Baldock's opener.

Manager Roberto Di Matteo made three changes to the side that drew with Swindon 1-1 on Saturday, with Miguel Llera returning to the starting eleven at centre-back after injury. Dean Lewington sat out through suspension so Jude Stirling switched from centre-back to left-back, and Jason Puncheon came in on the left side of midfield in place of Jemal Johnson.

It was a positive selection from Di Matteo; two strikers in Aaron Wilbraham and Baldock leading the line, and although Johnson has been superb this season, most of his best performances have come on the road. Still, dropping him was a big decision but it was one for the benefit of the team, rather than trying to squeeze individuals into a system that wouldn't have worked.

Dons started decently and had an early shout for a penalty when Shaun Cummings, who enjoyed one of his best games in a Dons shirt, aside from one poor moment, raided down the right and seemed to have his cross blocked by the hand of left-back Robbie Williams. It would have been harsh, but it may well have been valid.

From the same move Dons got it out onto the left for Chadwick, who had switched flanks with Puncheon, and he turned a defender before driving low on his left foot across goal. Huddersfield goalkeeper Alex Smithies comfortably saved.

Dons continued to press as Peter Leven's dangerous cross fell right in between defender Andy Butler and Smithies. With both going for the ball, they collided in mid-air, but Butler managed to divert the ball with his head behind for a corner, which came to nothing.

Then came the best chance of the half, as Puncheon showed exactly what he is capable of when on song. The winger, on the right hand side, left Williams on his backside with a couple of stepovers, before jinking back inside and cracking a rocket of a shot off the crossbar. It was heading for the back of the net and the Cowshed was on its feet before the ball rose right at the last minute.

Despite the decent start, Dons were very narrow and as a result the game did develop into something of the usual scrap, with Leven having very little space to make a difference in central midfield and Alan Navarro not doing a lot more than chasing shadows alongside him. Navarro looked like a player who maybe needed to take a week or two out, and just screw his head back on; as well as a tenacious player, Nav can be a very intelligent one too but he didn't show that last night.

The visitors started coming into the game as the half wore on but the Dons defensive remained very solid, with, as well as Cummings, Stirling in particular having a very good game at left-back against a tricky customer in Anthony Pilkington. An omen of things to come, Huddersfield also started troubling the Dons from set-pieces, with Sean O'Hanlon doing very well to divert Gary Roberts' free-kick behind and Navarro letting the resulting corner, also from Roberts, run through his legs, with Willy Gueret luckily placed to sweep up.

It was Huddersfield who probably edged proceedings at the beginning of the second half, with striker Andy Booth going close from a Roberts cross, but the Dons got the breakthrough on 59 minutes. Stirling's pass was superbly dummied by Wilbraham and Chadwick raced clear on the left side of the penalty area, unselfishly squaring for Baldock to convert.

Huddersfield introduced Flynn, who was on trial with the Dons at the beginning of the season, on 68 minutes, with Ian Craney making way, and it was the former Blackpool man who would make the difference.

Booth went close again just before the goal, this time from a Pilkington cross, as the Dons attempted to hang on to their slim lead, but they were thwarted on 80 minutes. Pilkington swung in a corner from the Huddersfield right, Butler met it in the air and Flynn managed to shift his body in the way of the ball, diverting it past Gueret and drawing the Terriers level. A goal they'd probably merited on their second half performance, as the Dons had faded badly.

Still, the Dons had a chance to take the points shortly after the equaliser. O'Hanlon split the defence with a through ball that substitute Ali Gerba raced onto, and from the sort of position Gerba thrives in, his tame shot was blocked by Smithies. The ball may have been marginally too far in front of him.

They nearly paid for that miss as Huddersfield almost nicked it late, late on. The otherwise very good Cummings was caught in possession on the halfway line and Roberts raided down the left hand side unchallenged. His ball across goal found striker Lukas Jutkiewicz, who sat it up nicely for Flynn. But Cummings made up for his error by putting himself on the goalline and diverting Flynn's shot onto the post and clear.

Make no mistake, this was a very big match for the Dons, and one in which they really could have done with three points. But, maybe it's the stadium - as expected only half full for a Tuesday night - maybe it's fatigue on the players' part; this match lacked all the intensity of a big game and the performance to match. And Dons will need to find that if we are to win promotion to the Championship.

Dons: Gueret 6; Cummings 7, O'Hanlon 7, Llera 7, Stirling 8; Chadwick 7 (Johnson 81), Leven 5, Navarro 4, Puncheon 6; Baldock 6 (Gerba 71, 6), Wilbraham 5.

Unused subs: Abbey, Belson, Regan.

Goals: Baldock 59.

Huddersfield: Smithies; Holdsworth, Lucketti, Butler, Williams; Pilkington, Collins, Craney (Flynn 68), Clarke, Roberts; Booth (Jutkiewicz 87).

Unused subs: Eastwood, Jevons, Berrett.

Goals: Flynn 80.

Attendance: 9,707.   

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Baldock goal not enough as Dons slip up
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11/03/2009 17:47
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