Substitute Mark Beck’s late equaliser denied MK Dons their first win in six League games as they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw with Carlisle United at Brunton Park.
As the game ticked away it seemed as though Adam Chicksen
’s 36th minute strike was enough to send the Dons back down the M6 with three points, but the hard-working Cumbrians had a sting in their tail as Beck turned home in the late stages.
Chicksen had fired the Dons ahead in a controlling first half for the visitors, but a much-improved Blues outfit wore down the Dons’ defence in the closing moments.
While the game lacked momentum and tempo, both sides had efforts denied by the woodwork while Carlisle goalkeeper Mark Gillespie was forced into a goal line clearance when a back-pass went horribly wrong in the second half.
The Dons made four changes to the side which bowed out of The FA Cup a week earlier with Adam Chicksen
, Ryan Lowe, Chris Lines and Anthony Kay all feature in the starting XI.
They replaced Jon Otsemobor and Daniel Powell, who found themselves on the bench and the injured Dean Bowditch while Alan Smith missed out through suspension.
The change in personnel resulted in a re-shuffle in positions with Shaun Williams playing in the hole behind lone-striker Lowe while Ryan Harley and Luke Chadwick moved out wide and Chicksen took up the right-back position.
In contrasting form, the Cumbrians and the Dons spent the early phases of the game both trying to settle into their football with no real noteworthy action.
In the 12th minute the hosts showed their danger when a ball whipped in from the right by Jon-Paul McGovern straight into the path of Lee Miller. Chicksen’s quick recovery put the Blues’ skipper under pressure and eventually the makeshift right-back did enough to force Miller to squander the opportunity.
A clash of heads between Dean Lewington and Danny Livesey interrupted play briefly and with the Carlisle defender leaving the pitch for treatment the hosts were momentarily reduced to 10 men. At that point the Dons looked to make the most of their numerical advantage when McGovern was dispossessed on the right which allowed Williams to find a great ball through to Lowe, but the striker fired wide.
A driving run from midfield encouraged a long-range low drill from Lines which caused trouble for Mark Gillespie as the ball spilt from his palm only for O’Hanlon to clear up before Lowe could follow up.
The game suffered from a lack of tempo, however, the Dons players were trying to stamp their authority on proceedings with Williams unleashing an ambitious effort from distance which called on Gillespie between the sticks.
Carlisle almost found a breakthrough in fortuitous circumstances when an awkward bounce of the ball from Liam Noble opened an avenue for Rory Loy but a point-blank block from Martin denied the hosts.
Instead it was the Dons who broke the deadlock in the 36th minute when Chicksen cut in from the right flank before drilling a fine shot beyond the reach of the outstretched Gillespie.
Moments later, though, the Dons were forced into their first substitution of the game when David Martin appeared troubled with an injury and sub goalie Ian McLoughlin, who returned on loan from Walsall earlier in the week, was introduced for his second appearance of the season.
Greg Abbott opted for a half-time substitute with Paul Thirlwell being replaced by David Symington who almost made an immediate impact. The winger robbed the ball from the feet of Chadwick and whipped in a deadly cross which was knocked just inches over the bar by Dons defender Kay. It was a nervy moment for the Dons and it was the flash of creation which the Carlisle boss would have been craving for.
A short spell of pressure from the Cumbrians forced the Dons on to the back foot and provoked some last-gasp defending as Miller turned an effort on the spin over the bar.
The hosts were on the up with Symington proving pivotal to their chance in performance and when his inch-perfect cross found McGovern unmarked in the box it appeared evitable that McLoughlin would be picking the ball out of the net. However, the former Dons wide man watched in agony as his strike hit the underside of the bar and bounced safely for the visitors to clear.
The second half had been largely interrupted by niggling knocks and injuries in both sides, killing any momentum the game had gathered. After a short stoppage for treatment to MacKenzie the Dons set off on an attack which saw Chadwick break down the wing and cut the ball back to the edge of the box.
It was Potter who arrived first to the ball and the midfielder appeared to mis-hit his shot from 18-yards, but the swirling effort hit the corner of the woodwork.
The Cumbrians then played themselves into unneeded danger when a wild pass back from Noble went horribly wrong and left Gillespie scrambling to kick clear before the ball crossed the line – he appeared to do so just in time.
In the late stages though the hosts found a way through a static Dons defence as a Symington corner was flicked on in the box to Carlisle sub Beck, on the pitch for six minutes, who gleefully turned the ball home at the near post.
Four minutes of added time were announced at a time when the Blues were looking as inspired they had all game, and the Dons had their hearts in their mouths when a deflected James Berrett shot flashed just inches wide at the death.
In the end it was a point-a-piece for both sides and the Dons now turn their attentions to Portsmouth.
Carlisle United: Gillespie, Simek, McGovern, Livesey (Murphy 69), Noble, Loy (Beck 80), Thirwell (Symington 46), Miller (c), Berrett, Mutsoe, O’Hanlon.
Subs not used: Collin, Welsh, Cadamarteri, Potts, Beck.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin (McLoughlin 39); Chicksen, MacKenzie (Kouo-Doumbe 77), Kay, Lewington (c); Potter, Lines; Chadwick, Williams, Harley (Powell 64); Lowe.
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, McLeod, Baldock, Rasulo.
Goal: Chicksen 36
Referee: Kevin Wright
Attendance: 4,283 (179 away)