MK Dons put an end to their losing streak in Sky Bet League One by taking a point from Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Alex Gilbey struck from 25-yards to give Russell Martin’s men a deserved lead early in the second half but Donny levelled the scores late on through a controversial Cameron John goal.
The Dons remain 21st in the Sky Bet League One table, three points adrift of Tranmere Rovers heading into their Stadium MK clash with Oxford United next weekend.
Boss Martin was forced into two changes from the midweek win over Coventry City although one of those was withdrawn shortly before kick-off. George Williams and Baily Cargill came out of the side due to the suspension and were initially replaced by Callum Brittain and Jordan Moore-Taylor, however, the latter pulled out during the warm-up - Regan Poole came in, in his place.
There was a return to the squad for Sam Nombe, who hadn’t featured since suffering a knee injury in September. He was on the bench alongside Ben Reeves, who was rested for the Leasing.com Trophy success in midweek.
The game started brightly, with Doncaster finding the net after just two minutes. Fortunately for the Dons, though, Kieran Sadlier’s deflected effort was ruled for offside.
Martin’s men then countered down the right-hand side with Hiram Boateng, who found Joe Mason. His tight-angled shot was blocked. Doncaster threatened again shortly after, with Lee Nicholls keeping out a low drive from Alfie May.
The Dons put together another attacking with seven minutes on the clock, which led to a Brittain strike being blocked on its way through to goal. They then won a corner, from which Poole sent a half-volley over the crossbar.
A McGrandles interception provided Mason with an opportunity to make it three goals in as many games on 12 minutes but the striker dragged his left-footed effort wide of the far post.
The hosts then had a terrific opportunity to break the deadlock but May, sneaking in down the right, failed to link up with Rakish Bingham. Rovers kept the attack alive, though, and Ben Whiteman forced Nicholls into a diving stop. A minute later, Nicholls saw a strike from James Coppinger sail over his crossbar.
MK Dons thought they’d taken the lead on 20 minutes when a rasping effort from Gilbey flew towards the top right-hand corner from 18 yards. However, a late diving stop from Seny Dieng kept it out.
Five minutes later, Gilbey struck again but this time saw his attempt blocked by a sliding defender. From the resulting corner, a game of pinball ensued inside the Donny box but the hosts managed to, eventually, see away the danger.
The Dons looked in control of the contest but they were reminded of their opponents’ threat when Whiteman fired a low drive towards goal. Nicholls made the diving save. He produced another in the final minute of the half, from Sadlier, to keep the scores level heading into the break.
While the second half didn’t start at the same frantic pace of the first, Martin’s men looked assured in possession in the opening stages and six minutes in, they took a deserved lead.
A Lewington tackle in the middle of the park won possession for his side and they spent the next minute or so camped inside the Donny half. Eventually, Boateng poked a ball to an unmarked Gilbey, who didn’t hesitate before curling a first-time shot around Dieng and into the top right-hand corner. 0-1.
The Dons were forced into some defending in the aftermath of the goal. Their best chance at an immediate response came from Sadlier, who volleyed over following a corner.
On 64 minutes, Martin went to the bench for the first time. Reeves for Boateng was his substitution. His second arrived nine minutes later and it saw the welcome return of Nombe in place of Agard.
Nombe was involved as MK Dons went close to doubling their lead with 12 minutes to play. Mason had the effort, which was saved at the near post by Dieng.
Rovers then had the ball in the net but, for a second time, the goal was chalked off for an offside in the build-up to Sadlier’s finish.
They forced another one over the line shortly after and, despite appeals from the Dons, this one stood – Cameron John the man credited with the goal following a scrap in the penalty area. 1-1.
That proved to be the final decisive moment of an eventful affair. Both sides did threaten a winner late on but, in the end, the spoils were shared.
MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington (c), Walsh, Poole, Gilbey, Agard (Nombe 74), McGrandles, Mason (Kasumu 90+4), Houghton, Brittain, Boateng (Reeves 64).
Subs: Moore, Bowery, Dickenson, Sorinola.
Goal: Gilbey (51)
Booked: Boateng, McGrandles
Doncaster Rovers: Dieng, Halliday, James, Sheaf (Gomes 83), Sadlier, Whiteman (c), Bingham (Thomas 88), May (Watters 68), Coppinger, John, Daniels.
Subs: Jones, Wright, Longbottom, Greaves, Thomas.
Goal: John (85)
Referee: S Oldham
Attendance: 7,193 (271 away)
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