MK Dons were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw at stadiummk by Preston North End.
The match promised so much in the opening 10 minutes when Adam Chicksen
bagged his second League goal of the season to fire the Dons in front, but Will Hayhurst struck back within five minutes to level the score line.
At that point, though, the game became riddled with interruptions and ultimately hampered the flow of the game. Both teams will have felt hard-done by the referee with penalty appeals turned down at both ends of the pitch.
Preston were denied a winner when Ian McLouglin pulled off a fine save from Hayhurst while the Dons went close through Dean Bowditch, Chris Lines and Antony Kay.
In the end though, both sides had to settle for a point a piece, which makes it four draws in a row for the Dons.
The Dons made three changes with Ryan Lowe, Jon Otsemobor and Chris Lines coming in for Izale McLeod, Gary MacKenzie – who made a loan switch for Blackpool 24 hours earlier – and Ryan Harley.
Both the Dons and Preston North End would have been expecting to battle at the top end of the table when the fixture was confirmed at the start of the season. However, both teams went into the match hungry for a result to kick start a form revival.
The Dons, looking for their first win in the League since New Year’s Day, were boosted by the news of Luke Chadwick’s contract extension before kick-off but it was Adam Chicksen
’s name which was sung from the stands when the young utility man broke the deadlock inside two minutes.
Lone striker Lowe showed great determination as he took the ball to the byline before cutting back into the path of Chicksen. The MK-born player, occupying the left midfield role, struck a sweet left-footed curler against the inside of the post and there was enough power in the shot to take it into the back of the net.
It was the perfect start for the Dons, yet a moment of hesitance at the opposite end quickly cost them an equaliser. Preston went on the attack and the Dons failed to deal with Lee Holmes’ cross as it flashed across the six-yard box, and Will Hayhurst was able to fire home from a tight angle.
The early phases of play highlight the Dons’ desire to get the ball down and play through the right-hand side, using the pace of Daniel Powell to their favour.
Frustration from the crowd and players alike increased as the half-hour-mark approached, largely down to the inconsistency from the officials which saw a number of curious decisions awarded.
Most of the Lilywhites’ best work came down their right wing with Holmes and Paul Connolly looking dangerous down the wing. Connolly broke beyond Dean Lewington and saw his cross cut out but Scott Beavon picked up the ball and fizzed a tame shot into Ian McLoughlin, which Jack King failed to follow-up with any real intent.
The Dons should have found themselves back in the lead five minutes before the break when Lowe had a great opportunity in front of goal. A cross came in from the right of the box and Lowe, taking a touch on his body to steady the ball at his feet, was quickly closed down by the defence as the close-range shot was blocked and in the scrappy follow-up an infringement was spotted by the assistant referee.
After the early promise of the game, the fireworks failed to ignite and the half-time interval would have provided both managers the chance to assess a disappointing game.
Upon the restart Preston’s Holmes tried to find the spark needed when he tried a long-range effort in an attempt to catch McLoughlin cold, but the Dons goalie was comfortable with the save.
The Dons were left outraged in the 59th minute when Lewington was dragged down by Connolly in the penalty area, but the referee waved away the claims, as the loose ball popped up Lowe watched his shot blocked, which appeared to be by a PNE arm.
It was a good period of pressure from the Dons, yet Declan Rudd had remained relatively untested between the sticks.
There was no flow in the game, which was largely interrupted by the sound of the referee’s whistle.
When a free-kick was awarded to the visitors on the edge of the box there was a real moment of danger for the Dons. However, McLoughlin came to the Dons’ rescue as he pulled off a superb tip over from Hayhurst’s well-hit shot.
Preston then felt they should have had a penalty when Hayhurst went down under the challenge of Chicksen.
The introduction of Dean Bowditch, who has missed two games through injury, almost paid off when the forward unleashed a fierce strike from long-range, which sailed just inches wide.
Dons went close again when a Bowditch’s deep free-kick was met by the head of Antony Kay, and turned out for a corner by the Lilywhites’ defence.
The Dons were presented with another chance to take a late lead when another free-kick, this time from 20-yards out, was excellently hit by Lines yet fell the wrong side of the post.
Ultimately the Dons ran out of time and could not find the one goal that would have resulted in two more points.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Otsemobor (Bowditch 68), Kay, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Lines; Powell, Chadwick, Chicksen; Lowe (McLeod 90).
Subs not used: Kouo-Doumbe, Flanagan, Baldock, Rasulo.
Booked: Lewington, Powell
Goal: Chicksen 2
Preston North End: Rudd, Buchanan (Robertson 81), Huntington, Wright, Connolly, Hayhurst, Welsh (c), Wroe, Holmes (Garner 89), King, Beavon (Monakana 77).
Subs not used: Stuckmann (GK), Beardsley, Mousinho, Proctor.
Goal: Hayhurst 7
Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire)
Goal-Don Goal Times: 1st goal – 1.46; 2nd goal – 6.29