Oxford United picked up a point at the MK Dons this afternoon as Callum Brittain's second half goal cancelled out an opener from Robbie Hall.
Neither John Mousinho nor Alex Mowatt were included after their deadline day arrival, but there was a first league appearance for Dwight Tiendalli at right back, allowing Christian Ribeiro to continue at centre-half, skippering the side in place of the injured Curtis Nelson.
The home fans spent the first eight minutes booing Hall like a pantomime villain whenever he touched the ball, but were then silenced as their former idol played a slick one-two with Jack Payne after James Henry had set the move going. The Dons backed off, allowing Hall room on the edge of the box to work the ball on to his left foot and curl it beyond the despairing Lee Nicholls for a terrific goal, his third in two games.
Jon Obika then tested the keeper’s handling with two low drives, Henry whipped another just wide of the mark and the men in black were in control of the early stages. Hall was denied only by brave block by Nicholls at the near post after 21 minutes after another storming run from Obika, and the U's were certainly the quicker team out of the blocks.
The home side had been hesitant, with only a Ryan Seager mega drive on 25, blocked by the resolute Mike Williamson, to worry the United back line but started to grow into the game. Tiendalli’s afternoon ended soon after as he slid to block a cross and landed awkwardly before being replaced by Aaron Martin.
The Dons could have been level when Alex Tshibola couldn’t quite steer a presentable chance at the back post on target after 31 minutes, and Eastwood then made a good save when sub Brittain got a clear shot at goal after 37 minutes.
There were two early efforts from the home side at the start of the second half which bracketed the goal without troubling Eastwood but United hadn't quite recaptured their earlier fluency and on the hour their lead was gone as Brittain hammered home a fine equaliser. There seemed little danger when he got the ball on the right wing but he came inside, reached the corner of the box and let fly with a left footer that perhaps took a slight deflection as it flashed past the helpless Eastwood.
United dug in a little at the back but also gave Gino van Kessel 20 minutes to try and find a second goal. Robbie Muirhead dragged a 77th-minute shot wide for the Dons but Obika was close to reaching an 82nd-minute cross from Ribeiro at the other end as the game ebbed and flowed.
The last five minutes saw high drama. Both Payne, who leant back and fired into the 3,000 away fans at the end of a great move down the right involving Ribeiro once more, and van Kessel, who cut the ball behind his teammates as he bore down on goal in the 86th minute, had chances to turn a draw into a win as United pressed once more. Obika fired too high in the 89th minute and van Kessel almost won it with a rolling effort that was smuggled just wide, and by then Dons boss Robbie Neilson was in the stands after being sent off.
A lively end to an entertaining 90 minutes in which United had once again shown real potential. They start the second month of the season with a useful point and with just one defeat so far. Two home games to come. See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels and Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA