Elliot Lee's header in injury time gave battling Oxford United a point at MK Dons this afternoon.
Andrew Surman's neat goal looked to be giving the home side a win until Lee arrived in the six-yard box to head home and ensure that United came away with a draw that they had fully deserved over the 90 minutes.
On a mild afternoon that hinted at spring, it was the orange-shirted U’s who started the brighter, with the opening goal definitely coming against the run of play.
Wingers Mide Shodipo and Brandon Barker had already justified Karl Robinson’s decision to include both of them, with a series of dangerous early runs down the flanks but after 12 minutes it was Surman who scored the opener when Ethan Laird led the charge down United’s left and Surman slotted home a really well-taken goal, beating Jack Stevens and guiding the ball perfectly inside the far post to make it 1-0.
United stuck to their guns and both Shodipo and Barker had powerful efforts blocked by some brave defending from the Dons, with Cameron Brannagan pulling the strings from deeper in midfield and Elliot Lee taking up some great positions behind striker Matty Taylor.
There was some good football; Lee hit a volley into the keeper’s arms, Barker ran the length of the pitch but couldn’t get Darling to move over as he tried to find the waiting Taylor, Shodipo was denied by a great tackle from the back-pedalling Warren O’Hora and Barker was stopped by a similar fine challenge by the excellent Darling.
Brannagan drifted a 25-yarder wide, but United hadn’t tested home keeper Andrew Fisher enough in the first 45 minutes despite having 60 percent of the possession. A goal down at the break, to the home side’s only shot on target, United continuted to press the home side at every opportunity but again found it hard to get sight of Fisher's goal.
When they did, Taylor drilled into the side netting on the hour and a minute later almost embarrassed the keeper by tackling him on the goal line, but it was the home side who came closest to the next goal when experienced due Cameron Jerome and Will Grigg sent efforts over the bar soon after joining the action.
It took a magnificent tackle from Alex Gorrin to stop Jerome from doubling the lead, and with the tide going against United a triple substitution saw Winnall, Henry and Agyei given 20 minutes to rescue the situation.
It had a mixed impact. Agyei was to take centre stage but Winnall lasted only six minutes before he was subbed himself after a kick to the ankle, Mark Sykes replacing him.
The decisive moment seemingly belonged to Agyei though. He had already planted one effort just wide when, charging at goal he pushed the ball past Fisher outside the area and would have been able to walk it in to the empty net had Fisher not fouled him. Ref James Oldham reached only for his yellow card, Lee inevitably saw the resulting free kick saved by the relieved keeper and United's day was surely on the verge of being ruined...
They tried, lord knows they tried. Fisher produced the save of the match by somehow getting down to push away a goalbound Agyei header and Anthony Forde's first touch was a shot which struck the post with Fisher finally beaten.
'Fine margins' I wrote after the games against Ipswich and Portsmouth this week. Surely this was another game destined for defeat? Guess again. A deep cross, headed back by Agyei, and Lee joyfully nodded home to give United a point.
Spirit and character. Almost given a Surman, United had never given up and a point was made, in every sense.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA