MK Dons fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 in an entertaining match against UCD.
The Dons fell 2-0 down within 20 minutes as Robert Benson and Dean Clarke both breached a sleepy defence. However, a fine penalty from Santiago Aloi, currently on trial with the Club, and bundled effort from Luke Chadwick ensured honours were even at the break.
UCD, who drew 2-2 with Peterborough United last week, currently find themselves third from bottom in the Irish Premier Division but they provided a solid test for the Dons.
The Dons were without Stephen Gleeson, who returned to England to feature in a testimonial match, while Adam Chicksen (ankle) also missed out. Patrick Bamford was rested after he was on the end of some heavy tackles in the opening pre-season match against UCD.
Argentine trialist Santiago Aloi was handed another chance to impressive the Dons management as he started on the left of midfield while George Baldock took up the right-hand role. It was a young side with Harry Hickford and Brendan Galloway in defence, Dele Alli in midfield and Giorgio Rasulo leading the attack.
The side, however, had sprinkles of experience throughout the spine with Antony Kay, Shaun Williams, Alan Smith and Luke Chadwick all featuring.
Conditions were far from ideal for both sides as a sundrenched UCD Bowl maintained the heat on a dry pitch. The Dons though could have few excused for a sloppy start which allowed Robert Benson to pick up the ball on the left of the area before drilling a low effort beyond Ian McLoughlin.
While the Dons were trailing early on, they were quick to find a lively tempo which suited their style and began to dominate possession.
There was plenty of bite in the midfield for the Dons as Baldock shifted into the centre alongside Smith and found himself enjoying a larger slice of the action.
Dele Alli and Harry Hickford showed good understanding of each others’ game with some clever link-up play on the right-hand side which almost created an opening for Chadwick, but the midfielder was well-marshalled by the UCD defence.
As their patterns of play became more fluid the Dons committed men forward and it proved to be a risky move when Dean Clarke broke on the counter-attack to fire a low, clinical strike home.
McLoughlin was called back into action only a matter of minutes later when Tyrone McNelis was found by a cross in the box, but the Dons goalie made a fine double-block to prevent him from adding his name onto the score sheet.
At the opposite end of the pitch Kay almost pulled a goal back for the Dons when he connected with a corner but UCD goalie Mark McGinley did well to save the bouncing shot at his far post.
With UCD midway through their season their fitness levels were impressive and their organisation, especially in defence, was a frustration for the Dons. Their fluidity was a constant danger and McNelis could have netted a third for the hosts when his cheeky side-foot, with his back to goal, rose inches over.
Five minutes before the break McLoughlin made a superb save to deny Clarke in a one-on-one situation. It looked for every second as though Clarke’s shot was finding the back of the net but McLoughlin boar down and got enough of a touch to take it out for a corner.
When Smith, who had moved into a more attacking role to provide support for Rasulo, was wrestled to the ground in the area the Dons were awarded their second penalty in as many days. On this occasion though, Williams stayed back and trialist Aloi duly stepped up to smash his spot-kick into the bottom corner and reduce the deficit to 2-1.
On the stroke of half-time Chadwick weaved his way into the area, held off several challenges, and turned in the equaliser from six-yards.
The interval offered Robinson a chance to make six changes to the side which include the introduction of Jon Otsemobor, Tom Flanagan and Dean Lewington in defence while Darren Potter and Daniel Powell were added into midfield. Izale McLeod was brought on to lead the line upfront.
UCD also used the friendly to see all of their players in action and a new XI took to the pitch in the second half.
The Dons bossed possession as they sprayed the ball around the pitch, however, the lack of action in the final third prevented the visitors for making their dominance count on the scoreboard.
Flanagan showed good awareness with a well-timed tackle on Gary Burke on the hour –mark to halt the UCD man’s break through to goal.
Goalkeeper Michael Kelly then denied the Dons a chance to take the lead when McLeod’s superb cross found Chadwick on the right of the box but the ‘keeper was quick off the mark and stopped the ball at the midfielder’s feet.
It was McLoughlin’s turn to take the plaudits moments later when he made another fine save to prevent Belhout from re-instating UCD’s lead. The forward thought he had scored five minutes later but the offside flag quickly ruled it out.
Kelly slowly became a thorn in the Dons’ side when he made another strong block, this time with his feet, to deny McLeod from inside the area. Darren Potter added his name to the list of players who had registered a shot when he sent a fierce long-range effort wide of the right post as the Dons’ dominance continued.
Despite finding themselves on top throughout the second half the score, which was secondary to both sides, remained at two-a-piece but more importantly for the Dons it was another step up in their pre-season preparations.
MK Dons first half team: McLoughlin; Hickford, Kay, Williams, Galloway; Smith (c), Alli; Baldock, Chadwick, Aloi; Rasulo.
MK Dons second half team: McLoughlin; Otsemobor, Flanagan, Williams (Galloway 76), Lewington (c); Alli, Potter; Powell, Chadwick (Baldock 65), Rasulo; McLeod.
Booked: Alli, Williams