Despite Kerry Newman grabbing an early goal, MK Dons Ladies had to settle for a draw in their opening league game of the season against Denham United.
Newman grabbed the Dons’ only goal of the game in the second minute, after some neat passes between the team found her in space in the box. Newman then calmly slotted the ball past the goalkeeper to give her side a 1-0 lead.
The Dons had a few opportunities through Heather McDonnell and Charly Wright to double the lead, but they continued to lead until the 58th minute when Denham’s Alissa Down scored from a free-kick – the free-kick was whipped in at pace and looped over a stretching Savannah Smith despite her best efforts.
In the last few minutes of the game, Denham thought they had snatched victory after firing the ball into the Dons’ net but the goal wasn’t to count. This meant both sides left Willen Road with a point a piece after a hard-fought opening game of the season.
The Dons started the game on the front foot and were quickly rewarded thanks to Newman’s composed effort from inside the box, to give the Dons’ a dream start.
After the goal, the hosts found themselves with another goalscoring opportunity. After McDonnell was brought down 20 yards from goal, the Dons were awarded a free-kick. Set-piece specialist Wright then stepped up but could only narrowly curl it over the bar.
It was then McDonnell’s turn to go close, after a through ball found her just outside the Denham box. McDonnell burst into the area, avoiding losing the ball with some neat skill, but found herself at too narrow an angle to score and couldn’t squeeze her shot into the goal.
Denham then established themselves as an attacking threat with, former Dons player Kara Howes having a shot from distance which Smith saved.
Denham followed that effort up by curling the ball into the box from a corner which caused a scramble in the Dons’ box. The ball ended up hitting and ricocheting off Smith in the goal. Amelia Hazard acted quickly to get on the loose ball and clear the danger.
The Dons went into the break with their 1-0 lead intact and quickly tried to double it as soon as the second half was underway. McDonnell created space for herself 20 yards from goal and had time to line up her shot. However, she was unable to keep her effort from fizzing over the left corner of the goal.
The scores were then tied as Denham made the most of a free-kick won on the left wing, with Down scoring directly from it with a powerful effort.
After conceding, the Dons went close to a second goal through captain Louise Naylor who cut inside from the left wing and had a shot from distance which went agonisingly wide of the top right corner.
The Dons went close once more to taking the lead after breaking quickly down the pitch on a counter-attack. Hazard passed the ball to McDonnell in the box, who turned and shot, but wasn’t able to beat the keeper.
After McDonnell’s effort was saved, it was the Dons who had some defending to do in the final quarter of the game.
Denham thought they had done enough to get all three points, as they fired the ball into the net. However, the goal didn’t stand as the referee had already blown his whistle to stop play and had awarded a free-kick to the Dons before the ball was struck – this proved to be the last chance for either side to grab all three points.
Speaking after the game, James Honeyman revealed he was content with the Dons getting a point on the board after believing his team “didn’t quite click today.”
He said; “I think it’s a point on the board. We didn’t play well today, we didn’t play to the best of our capabilities and Denham played very well, so it’s a good start.
“Right at the end there, they’ve had a goal disallowed and on another day that could have stood.
“It didn’t quite click for us today and we’ll look at why that was on Tuesday, then come back, reset and go again.”
Starting XI: Smith, Burgess, Hazard, Holland, Goodier (Mallett 56), Wright (Duffy 67), Naylor (c) , Hughes, Newsome, Newman (Payne 76), McDonnell.
Unused subs: Harrison, Lander.
Goal: Newman (2).