MK Dons 2 Bristol City 2
Sam Baldock bagged a double on his first return to MK1 with two potent finishes to put City in the driving seat on two occasions. However, a Patrick Bamford strike initially pulled the hosts back into proceedings before Samir Carruthers curled in a superb equaliser to keep the Dons’ unbeaten record in tact.
While Sam Baldock’s return to stadiummk was a talking point, so too was the fact that he was lining up against his younger brother George for the first time.
Karl Robinson made just one change to the side which drew with Preston a week earlier with Luke Chadwick returning to the starting XI in place of Dele Alli.
It meant the makeshift defence of Jon Otsemobor in the centre with Shaun Williams on the left.
Despite the gloomy weather the match started brightly at stadiummk with an early curling effort from Jason Banton falling wide and Sam Baldock turning a low right-footed shot into the body of David Martin.
In the early phases the Dons showed off some of their great football and at times played football around their visitors. George Baldock did well to steal the ball on the right of midfield, in doing so he halted a City attack, and the ball quickly moved through the centre, to the left and back to the centre of the Dons’ midfield before Banton tried another effort at goal, only this time he couldn’t keep his shot down as it dipped over the bar.
After a period of dominance the Dons were pinned back by the Robins with a series of corners which kept the pressure on the hosts. Sean O’Driscoll’s side went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 21st minute when Bobby Reid’s corner met Aden Flint, who had shaken off his mark to apply a thumping header, but the defender was denied as his excellent header came back off the post.
The Dons too had good chances to take the lead when work down the right flank between Lee Hodson and George Baldock created space for Gleeson to thread the ball in behind Patrick Bamford, yet the striker watched as his shot hit the post and went out for a goalkick.
There had been some promising movement from the Dons in the build up to their chance but had failed to truly threaten Frank Fielding in goal.
At the opposite end though, Sam Baldock, it could only ever have been him, who showed great composure and a deadly finish to fire the visitors into the lead. Space opened up on the left of the Dons’ defence and allowed Reid to manoeuvre through to find Sam Baldock just inside the box. The 24-year old took a quick glimpse upwards before burying his strike into the back of the net.
The forward, who had wildly celebrated many a goal in front of the Cowshed before, showed tremendous respect to the supporters who once adored him and wore his name on the back of their shirts by almost apologetically standing still as his Robins team-mates surrounded him.
The Dons continued to carve out chances as Otsemobor and Banton linked up on the left of the Robins’ box, yet Bamford failed to arrive in time to turn in Banton’s cross at the far post.
It took the Dons eight minutes into the second half to find the goal they needed to return to level terms and they did it with some style as a great break saw Chadwick thread an excellent ball into the path of Bamford who, from the left of the box, didn’t need a second invitation as he picked out the bottom corner at the first time of asking.
Substitute Samir Carruthers, on the pitch in place of Banton who appeared to pick up a knock, tried his luck from distance only minutes after coming on when he curled a long-range strike just wide of the post.
Dons made their second change of the game on the hour-mark with Dele Alli introduced to add some fresh legs up front while George Baldock moved to right-back.
While the Dons had been on the front foot since the interval, Bristol City showed the danger they possessed in their ranks when Reid flashed a fine strike just over the bar. It was a useful reminder for the home side not to become complacent when pushing bodies forward.
In the 65th minute though the Dons watched the excellent movement of Sam Baldock as latched on to a route one ball from Fielding in goal and the former Dons man lashed the ball past Martin for the second time in the game.
However, the game’s momentum swung once more just four minutes after the Dons had fallen behind when Alli’s fine run through midfield dragged City out of shape and opened up space for Carruthers who, rather outrageously, curled in his first professional goal with the outside of his foot.
The finish came in the most natural and casual of ways for the youngster, who joined on loan for the Dons from Aston Villa two weeks earlier.
Eleven minutes from time City had a penalty appeal turned down by referee Graham Salisbury when Joe Byran went down in the area under pressure from the Dons’ defence, but the official signalled a goalkick instead.
The match was set up for a thrilling finale as both neither side shirked from a challenge and pushed forward with intent. The Dons had Martin to thank when he parried a good strike from Emmanuel-Thomas and they were rather fortunate when Sam Baldock failed to connect with the loose ball just 10 yards out.
The City goalie Fielding pulled off a wonder save two minutes from time to deny the hosts all three points when he managed to tip the ball onto the post to prevent a Shaun Williams free-kick from nestling into the net.
MK Dons: Martin; Hodson (Alli 61), Kay, Otsemobor, Williams; Potter, Gleeson (c); Baldock, Chadwick (McLeod 74), Banton (Carruthers 53); Bamford.
Subs not used: McLoughlin (GK), Smith, McLeod.
Goals: Bamford 52, Carruthers 69
Bristol City: Fielding, Moloney, Flint, Williams, Cunningham, Wagstaff, Elliott, Reid (Wynter 76), Bryan (Pack 90), Emmanuel-Thomas (Harewood 90), Baldock.
Subs not used: Parish, Fontaine, Kilkenny, Burns.
Goals: S Baldock 36, 65
Referee: Mr G Salisbury