A Shaun Williams penalty rescued a point for MK Dons as they played out a fourth straight draw with Preston North End.
The Dons twice had to come from behind as two defensive errors put the Lillywhites in the driving seat at half-time. Antony Kay turned the ball into his own net to give the hosts the lead after 10 minutes but Jason Banton appeared to repair the damage with a wonder goal to level the score.
However, 10 minutes before the interval a mistake at the back from Jon Otsemobor handed Joe Garner the simplest of goals. The Dons gambled with a triple change soon after the break but the gamble paid off when Williams earned a point with a fine spot-kick.
Karl Robinson made one change to the side which beat Crewe Alexandra a week earlier with Jon Otsemobor replacing Ben Reeves in defence. The switch in personnel meant Otsemobor partnered Antony Kay at centreback while Shaun Williams shifted to left-back.
Games between Preston and the Dons have never produced many goals in the past with two of their last three encounters goalless draws between the two sides.
This year though the Dons had fresh, young blood running through their side while hopes were high at Deepdale with Simon Grayson looking to build on the solid foundations he had cemented at the end of last season.
Preston North End started the brighter side with Lee Holmes calling on a simple save from David Martin and Keith Keane, who had intercepted a Jason Banton pass, also testing the Dons’ goalkeeper with a
tame shot in the early phases.
It was to be a man in red though who would beat Martin in goal as a Chris Humphrey’s cross into the box, which looked unlikely to find a Preston player, was diverted into the back of the net by a hapless Kay.
The presence of Kevin Davies, the former Bolton striker who switched to Deepdale in the summer, was always going to be a tough test for the Dons’ makeshift defence and he certainly kept them on their toes with a fierce drive from 20-yards, which Martin parried before Kay applied a thumping clearance, and a header fizzing wide all adding to the host’s early dominance.
It took the Dons a good 20 minutes to settle into the match with the Preston midfield proving difficult to break down, but more frustrating still for the visitors was the lack of penetration into the final third. Darren Potter tried to find the spark they needed with a 20-yard pile driver that was blocked by Bailey Wright, which prompted half-hearted hand ball appeals from the Dons.
The Dons needed a flash of brilliance and it was Banton who provided it in the blink of an eye with a sensational equaliser. The winger cut in on his right and was given acres of space by Preston to curl a superb effort into the top corner.
The slice of magic though was followed by a moment of horror for the Dons as Otsemobor bowed to pressure from Garner and tried to play the ball back to Martin from 12-yards out but ultimately gift-wrapped a second goal for the Lillywhites as the Preston striker latched on to the error and slotted home.
Errors kept coming from the Dons as Grayson’s side continued to press and apply pressure to their visitors. When Garner bore down on Martin, who was to the right of his goal at the byline, the Dons’ number one slipped as he sliced the ball straight to Holmes with an empty goal in his sights. The midfielder was unlucky as he watched his curled effort fall inches wide of the left post.
The half-time interval offered the Dons to regroup after a difficult first half, and following the interval they looked sharper with both Patrick Bamford and Dele Alli looking to make inroads which they had struggled with in the opening 45 minutes.
After 10 minutes though Robinson made a big and bold decision to show all of his cards at once with a triple substitution to introduce Samir Carruthers, for his debut having joined on loan from Aston Villa last
week, Luke Chadwick and Izale McLeod.
The changes seemed to work as a more fluid looking Dons began to spray the ball around with confidence. When Bamford found a wall of bodies in his way through to the Lillywhites box he spotted an unmarked Williams on the left-hand side, a fine pass brought the defender into the action who in turn fed Carruthers into the area where he was tripped by Tom Clarke.
The Dons were given their second opportunity to level the score in the match as referee Mark Brown pointed to the penalty spot. Regular penalty taker Williams stepped up with his usual area of confidence as he buried his spot-kick into the bottom corner to set up the match nicely with 25 minutes remaining.
When Stephen Gleeson went down under a challenge in the box any hopes of a second penalty were dashed as the stand-in captain was cautioned for diving. At the other end a close off-side call let the Dons off when Davies was judged to be have strayed as Wroe picked up the ball and turned the ball in at the near post. Luckily for the Dons it was chalked off before it hit the back of the net.
As the clock slowly ticked down Bamford had a great opportunity to give the Dons the lead for the first time in the match when he picked up the ball on the right of the box and strode away from his marker only to drag a tame shot off-target.
Neither side could find the winner, but Dons would have been relatively happy with the result on the road.
Preston North End: Rudd, Keane, Huntington, Clarke, Wright, Humphrey (Monakana 67), Davies, Holmes, Garner (Beavon 76), Buchanan, Welsh (c) (Wroe 67).
Subs not used: Stuckmann, Laird, Mousinho, Hume.
Goal: Kay (OG) 10, Garner 35
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Hodson, Otsemobor, Kay, Williams; Potter, Gleeson (c); Baldock (Carruthers 55), Alli (Chadwick 55), Banton (McLeod 55); Bamford.
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Smith, Reeves.
Goals: Banton 31, Williams (pen) 64
Attendance: 9,044 (182 away)
Referee: Mark Brown