Daniel Powell’s second goal in as many games earned a battling 10-man MK Dons a hard-fought 1-1 draw at AFC Bournemouth.
Bournemouth were fired in front when a plucky deflection fell to the feet of Lewis Grabben, who was able to finish past David Martin. The evening got worse for the Dons only five minutes later when a badly-timed challenge by Alan Smith saw the visitors reduced to ten men.
Karl Robinson’s side had to dig deep for 70 minutes – with Martin pulling off a number of fine saves and Lee Barnard seeing an offside goal disallowed – and against the odds Powell provided the spark of inspiration needed to level the scores.
It was an exhausting 90 minutes for the Dons as they rode their luck to leave with a 1-1 draw, but their never-say-die attitude and strong defensive performance will have pleased Robinson.
With four first team players unavailable – Shaun Williams and Mathais Kouo-Doumbe injured while Antony Kay and Stephen Gleeson served suspensions – the Dons were forced into a reshuffle and as a result Karl Robinson made three changes.
Jon Otsemobor came in for his Dons debut as Adam Chicksen moved to left-back and Dean Lewington partnered Gary MacKenzie. Alan Smith took up a place in midfield alongside Darren Potter while Charlie MacDonald took up the support striker position behind Ryan Lowe.
Both Bournemouth and the Dons fancy their chances at promotion from League 1 this season, with both clubs recruiting well in the summer. It meant expectation was high for the game, which started at a lively pace.
Skipper Lewington had the first real chance within the opening ten minutes with a free-kick just five yards outside the box, but the defender’s left boot lifted the effort well over.
Even in the early stages there were signs that the game would be won or lost in the midfield battle as the puppeteers of either side did their best to pull the strings.
Bournemouth caught the Dons out with a fine long cross over the top of the defence which opened up acres of space for Lewis Grabban but the Cherries striker’s outstretched foot could only knowck the ball wide.
The Dons looked a little ragged as the Cherries past the ball around them to allow Charlie Daniels’ cross in from the left deflected and landed perfectly for Grabban. The former Millwall man this time spun his way past Chicksen to get the perfect angle as he tucked the ball into the bottom corner.
Momentum was with the home side; however, Smith’s attempts to intervene in what looked to be another attack on goal proved ill-fated. The former Newcastle United midfielder mis-timed his challenge on Harry Arter and was promptly given his marching orders by referee Brendan Malone.
Not only was it the third red card in as many games for the Dons, it also meant the visitors had the uphill task of battling back from a goal down with ten men. MacDonald was the man sacrificed for the Dons with Luke Chadwick was introduced as they looked to find a way to stop Bournemouth and create their own chances.
Unfortunately for the Dons, the Cherries had the bit between their teeth and looked determined to inflict further misery on Robinson’s men. A powerful snap-shot at the near post from Simon Francis looked to have had enough power but Martin excellently turned the ball over.
It was a struggle for the Dons to create chances as they were smothered in midfield. When Lowe earned a free-kick on the edge of the box the Dons had to be calculated in their approach, yet the Cherries wall stood firm to block Lowe’s initial effort and Lewington’s follow-up.
The home side started the second half as they had finished the first – by piling pressure on the Dons. Joe Partington, who had been controlling the game from midfield, went within inches of doubling Bournemouth’s lead when he had Martin beaten but dragged a low shot wide of the right post.
It is not in the Dons make-up to give up on a game and they showed a little more fight in the opening phases of the second half. Once more Lewington had a low free-kick blocked by the strong Cherries defence, but the best chance to note came when Daniel Powell, quiet by his standards, fizzed in a ball from the left.
Bowditch arrived in the box to met Powell’s delivery, but he appeared one step ahead and with the ball just behind him the forward sent an awkward shot wide.
Moments later, the Dons bench was up in arms when Powell was clean through on goal and tumbled inside the box under the challenge of Miles Addison. Robinson and Co were certain a penalty would follow, but play continued.
At the other end, Southampton loanee Lee Barnard showed why he had been a star in the Championship last season as he lashed a superb shot, which came out of nothing, goalbound which Martin saw late and produced a fine tip away.
The Dons, who had more bite about them, set off on the counter-attack with MacKenzie playing the ball out from the back before supplying a fine ball into the path of Powell.
The wide man, who opened his account in the win over Oldham at the weekend, showed excellent composure as Shwan Jalal raced off his line and the Dons Academy graduate dinked the ball into the bottom corner to spark wild celebrations from the Dons bench.
It was almost a short-lived equaliser as, only minutes later, Barnard tapped the ball into Martin’s net but a reprieve came as the offside flag cancelled out what the Cherries thought was their second.
Bournemouth threw everything at the Dons, with Eunan O’Kane seeing his free-kick hit the underside of the crossbar while Barnard also saw further efforts fall off target. There was a late scare as the Cherries tried to force a late winner when Marc Pugh’s shot from Francis’ shot was headed by Chadwick, and it fell just inches wide of the goal.
Dons had their backs against the wall as they desperately hung on for a share of the points.
AFC Bournemouth: Jalal, Francis, Daniels, Barnard, Addison (c), Pugh, O’Kane, Partington, Arter (Fletcher 46), Cook, Grabban (Tubbs 79).
Subs not used: Flahavan, Thomas, Wakefield, Gregory, Zubar.
Goal: Grabban 17
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Otsemobor, MacKenzie, Lewington, Chicksen; Potter, Smith; Powell, MacDonald (Chadwick 22, Bowditch (O'Shea 90); Lowe (Ibehre 71).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Alli, Galloway.
Sent-off: Smith 21
Goal: Powell 62
Attendance: 5, 407 (271 away)
Referee: Brendan Malone (Wiltshire)