Report: PNE 1-1 Dons
Carl Baker gave the men from MK1 the lead six minutes before the break, but Scott Wiseman’s superb strike cancelled that out as the two sides shared the points for the sixth time in seven meetings.
Ben Reeves replaced Will Grigg in the starting XI for the clash with the Lilywhites in Lancashire.
The first chance of the afternoon fell to the hosts in the opening minute, Chris Humphrey volleying wide of David Martin’s right-hand post.
Karl Robinson’s men responded with an opportunity of their own two minutes later when Carl Baker saw a curling 20-yard effort deflect behind after a well-worked attack.
Baker’s fellow winger, Daniel Powell, was also looking sharp and he forced Thorsten Stuckmann into a fine finger-tip save on seven minutes after good work by Benik Afobe. From the resulting corner, Antony Kay volleyed Kyle McFadzean’s knock-down just over the top as the Dons started brightly.
That was followed by a spell of pressure from Simon Grayson’s side, who repeatedly asked questions of the Dons defence with balls into the box, but they were holding firm as the clock ticked past the quarter-hour mark.
Despite there looking to be a foul on Darren Potter on the edge of the box, the referee played on and it led to a golden chance on 18 minutes for Kevin Davies, who somehow skied his effort over from 10 yards when he really should have scored.
Shortly afterwards, at the other end, the Dons had an appeal for a penalty waved away as Dele Alli went down in the box under a challenge from Paul Huntington.
The game continued in its competitive manner but there wasn’t a further opportunity until the half-hour mark when Jermaine Beckford forced Martin into a save from close range.
Baker, who had looked lively throughout, broke the deadlock on 39 minutes, sliding home from six yards to meet Alli’s cross. The wonder-kid beat two Preston defenders as he burst into the box before adding another assist to his tally.
That proved to be the last real action of an evenly-contested first half between the sides that started the day in third and fourth respectively.
Paul Gallagher fired the first chance of the second period straight at Martin from 12 yards after a long throw had caused problems in the Dons box.
Martin was again called into action on 52 minutes, magnificently pushing away Huntington’s header, before the Lilywhites’ captain Tom Clarke sent an effort narrowly over the top after the hosts had recycled play well.
The Dons, themselves, were still looking dangerous going forward and Reeves tested Stuckmann with a low drive, prior to a rampaging run from Afobe, who was eventually crowded out.
There was a real ebb and flow about the game as the hour-mark approached, with Beckford heading into the side-netting at one end and Afobe dragging an effort just wide from 18 yards at the other.
Superb defending by the ever-dependable Dean Lewington denied Davies at the back post on 66 minutes, and Beckford scuffed a shot wide on their next foray forward after turning brilliantly inside the box.
However, there was nothing they could do on 68 minutes as Scott Wiseman thundered a volley past Martin from 15 yards to level matters.
Dean Bowditch was introduced in place of Reeves on 72 minutes as Robinson tried to swing the game back in his side’s favour, but it was the hosts who were doing most of the pressing as the clock ticked into the final 10 minutes.
Kyel Reid flashed a drive well wide with seven minutes remaining while, at the other end, the Dons were looking to exploit the pace of Afobe in behind the hosts’ defence.
The men from MK1 had Martin to thank on 88 minutes when he got down brilliantly to gather Davies’ downward header from Gallagher’s teasing cross.
However, the two best chances in injury-time fell to the Dons, but both substitute Samir Carruthers and Potter fired narrowly wide.
Starting XI: Martin; Spence, Kay, McFadzean, Lewington (c); Potter, Alli; Baker, Reeves (Bowditch 72), Powell (Carruthers 78); Afobe (Grigg 90+1).
Unused subs: McLoughlin, Hodson, Baldock, Green.
Goals: Baker (39).
Bookings: McFadzean, Spence.
Attendance: 9, 856 (332 Dons fans)