Karl Robinson was keen to shower praise on his side’s defensive display as they fought for a point at AFC Bournemouth despite playing for 70 minutes with only ten men.
Already without four first team players, due to injury and suspension, Robinson was forced to field a make-shift defence against fellow promotion hopefuls Bournemouth with left-back Dean Lewington switching to centre-half and Jon Otsemobor making his debut at right-back.
The Dons’ evening was made difficult when Lewis Grabban opened the scoring in the 16th minute, a strike which was later claimed to be offside. However, worse was to come for the Dons when Alan Smith was shown his marching orders for a challenge on Harry Arter only five minutes later.
Yet, somehow the Dons ensured their backline was not breached again as they dug deep and Daniel Powell capped off the night’s work when he produced a beautiful dink to level the scores.
Speaking after a draining game, Robinson said “That is as good a performance as you are going to see. I thought we defended all their set-pieces and their crosses into the box very, very well.
“In Dean Bowditch and Daniel Powell we knew we had an outlet if we could retain the ball; and with Darren Potter and Luke Chadwick we had a strong midfield; but I have to give a special mention to our back four with Dean Lewington and Gary MacKenzie forming a make-shift pairing, and Adam Chicksen and Jon Otsemobor, who put in a fantastic right-back performance.
“We’re very pleased because the players showed tremendous character against a very good Bournemouth team.”
Naturally, the Dons’ third red card in as many games was a talking point after the match and when a journalist revealed to Robinson that Arter had spoken of his ‘surprise’ to see Smith dismissed the Dons boss praised his honesty.
“That is fantastic, I really appreciate that, He’s a good footballer with good standards. At first I thought it was a sending off, I have been fortunate enough to see it again and I don’t think it is a sending off. He goes to ground and misses the ball by centimetres; I don’t think there was any malice in it.
“The referee had spoken to him a few minutes beforehand so maybe it was an accumulation of the two.
“People will point fingers, I understand that because I respect people’s opinions but ultimately you have to look at why they are sent-off. None of them have been for verbal chat; none of our bookings this season have been for that. It’s a referee’s judgement against our challenges.
“We have a referee coming in next week to talk through what is and isn’t deemed acceptable, but when you have had tackles against you which are worse than the ones you have been penalised for it is hard for our players to accept it.
“We have to roll up our sleeves against the odds. I won’t condone bad tackles or a lack of respect for the opposition because we are role models and we have to acknowledge that.”