MK Dons 1 (Williams,21, pen) Charlton 1 (Kermorgant 74).
Unbeaten after nine league games on Tuesday evening, Charlton journeyed to defend their record in “some corner of a foreign field that is forever…Milton Keynes.” That they returned still unvanquished was due to Ben Hamer’s excellent goalkeeping and a wonderfully headed late equaliser from substitute Yann Kermorgant with defeat looming. On this occasion, their flesh weakened but their spirit saw them through.
This was, make no mistake about it, a fine result, particularly when MK Dons’ blistering early superiority is entered into the equation. Charlton were all but sunk without trace by their hosts’ bewildering passing and movement, the ball no more than an elusive hot potato to them for nearly half an hour. But they battled obstinately, stuck to their outmanned guns and emerged from the opening salvo just a goal in arrears. The Dons should have been out of sight but missed their chance. The Addicks swallowed hard, buckled down and turned the tide. They deserved their precious point.
It’s an ersatz experience at stadiummk, beginning with its empty name and the false belief that the club are legitimate, biological successors to Wimbledon’s old Crazy Gang from Plough Lane. The programme informs us that they have played Charlton on 19 previous occasions, which came as news to me, and by logical extension, won the Cup in 1987. Well, they aren’t, they haven’t and they didn’t. The locals, meanwhile, have plagiarised that dopey dirge about nobody liking them, which comes closer to the truth.
To be fair, there was nothing phoney about the way the Dons tore into Charlton from the kick-off. The influential Luke Chadwick began an unceasing barrage by thumping a swerving 25-yarder slightly off target; Darren Potter drove narrowly too high; on the turn, Clinton Morrison, stung Hamer’s hands; Stephen Gleeson sent Hamer scrambling awkwardly to reach his low effort; Morrison again spun sharply to test Hamer; Tom Flanagan shaved the bar with a clever snapshot as frustration began to set in.
The visitors seemed to have weathered the worst when they succumbed to a penalty conceded by the unlikeliest of offenders. Chris Solly has laid down an early marker as player of the year, virtually impossible to beat, as tricky winger Angel Balanta discovered when his jinking 40-yard dribble was summarily halted by the right back’s no-nonsense tackle. But Solly’s impetuous challenge from behind on Dean Lewington left referee East no option but to punish it with a penalty. Shaun Williams scored confidently from the spot.
As the Dons’ intensity dropped, the priority for the shellshocked Addicks was to reach the interval without further damage. They managed it thanks to Hamer’s fine saves fom Chadwick and more impressively from Williams, who half-volleyed Flanagan’s perfectly flighted pass into the keeper’s grateful hands.
Needless to say, the Buckinghamshire side were far from finished. Balanta opened the second half by heading Chadwick’s centre off the top of the bar before the pendulum swung decisively. Paul Hayes’ volley was deflected to safety before Bradley Wright-Phillips nodded an accurate centre from Scott Wagstaff inches the wrong side of a post. It was stirring end-to-end stuff now, with Williams skimming the angle of post and bar with a searing distance drive.
With his resurgent side firmly in the ascendancy, Chris Powell made two masterly substitutions to save the evening. Though still waiting to make an impact this season, Danny Green’s class is unquestioned, his replacement of hard running Wagstaff on 66 minutes ideally timed. French newcomer Yann Kermorgant followed him five minutes later in relief of Hayes and the subs promptly combined to devastating effect. Green comprehensively skinned Lewington along the right touchline, left the full back in his wake, then whipped in an inspired cross on the run. Breaking to the near post to elude his marker, Kermorgant overpowered David Martin with an unstoppable header inside the right post. Charlton had received just reward for the sheer bloodyminded guts.
Chances were plentiful before the embattled sides settled mutually for a point apiece. The best of them featured Johnnie Jackson directing a terrific cross from Kermorgant wastefully over the bar, before Dons substitute Daniel Powell shot tamely at Hamer after Williams had set up what seemed a certain winner. Not that a winner was deserved by either of these talented teams. A draw was about right.
MK Dons (4-4-2): Martin, Potter, Beevers, Flanagan, Lewington, Chadwick, Gleeson, Chicksen, Williams, Morrison (Powell 66, Balanta (Bowditch 58). Not used: McLoughlin, Kouo-Doumbe, McNamee.
Charlton (4-4-2): Hamer, Solly, Taylor, Morrison, Wiggins, Wagstaff (Green 66), Hollands, Stephens, Jackson, Hyes (Kermorgant 71), Wright-Phillips (Hughes 87). Not used: Sullivan, Cort.
Referee: Roger East. Attendance: 8,114.
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