10-man Dons foil U's

CLIVE Platt scored against his old club, but Colchester United could not hold on against 10 men at the stadium:mk last night.

Carl Marston

MK Dons 1 Colchester United 1

CLIVE Platt scored against his old club, but Colchester United could not hold on against 10 men at the stadium:mk last night.

Platt was given a good ovation by the MK Dons supporters, both before the match and when he was finally substituted midway through the second-half.

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But they were deathly silent when their former hero nudged the U's into a 12th-minute lead, in front of the Sky TV cameras.

Scott Vernon did well in the build-up to the goal. The ex-Blackpool striker released Mark Yeates down the left edge of the box, and the Irishman's cross was deflected home by a very delicate but precise finish from Platt. He stuck out a boot to flick the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

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It was a neat touch for such a big man, and for a while it looked as though Platt's fifth goal of the season would be enough to beat the second-placed Dons.

But when midfielder Jason Puncheon was sent off for serious foul play on 61 minutes - he caught U's skipper Dean Hammond with a late lunge - the Dons suddenly found a new gear.

Five minutes later and Aaron Wilbraham headed home Jemal Johnson's corner at the far post to steal a point for the Milton Keynes club.

The U's could have won it late on, especially when Steven Gillespie steered his shot agonisingly wide from fellow substitute Anthony Wordsworth's cross in the last minute of normal time.

The result stretched the U's recent good run to just one defeat in eight league games, but Paul Lambert's side will be disappointed not to have clung on for a fourth straight away win. At least they halted the Dons' own run of four straight victories.

Jimmy Walker had signed a new loan deal in time to feature. The 35-year-old keeper's initial loan had expired the previous weekend, but all the paperwork was finalised on a new one-month package from West Ham earlier in the day.

Fellow keeper Dean Gerken was not even on the bench, apparently because of a calf strain, so Mark Cousins was in the 16-man squad. Left-back Marc Tierney was suspended.

The Dons were close to taking the lead inside the first two minutes. Strikers Sam Baldock (two) and Aaron Wilbraham had scored the goals in the 3-0 win at the Community Stadium last September, and they combined to good effect with Wilbraham nearly heading home Baldock's teasing cross from the left flank.

However, the U's soaked up the early pressure and struck back to take the lead, thanks to Platt's fifth goal of the campaign. The big man chose not to celebrate in front of his former fans.

That was actually United's only serious attack during the first quarter of the game. Platt did turn creator when flicking on Alan Maybury's 27th minute throw-in, but the onrushing Kem Izzet could not get enough power behind his header and keeper Willy Gueret cleaned up.

The U's, though, were far from stretched themselves. In fact, Walker did not have a serious save to make throughout the first half. The Hammers loanee merely had to show some good handling from crosses.

Lambert's men were close to doubling their lead in the last minute of the first period. Izzet won the visitors' first corner, and Gueret did well to claw away the initial cross, before then palming away the follow-up shot from David Perkins.

Frustration crept through the Dons' camp during the early stages of the second-half. The players were no doubt stung by manager Roberto Di Matteo's half-time team talk.

Striker Baldock was booked for a clumsy challenge on Pat Baldwin, and then complained when referee Mr Taylor waved away his penalty appeals after he had taken a tumble in the box, with Hammond in close attendance.

The Dons were down to 10 men just after the hour mark. Midfielder Puncheon caught Hammond with a late lunge, near the half-way line, and a split-second later Mr Taylor was reaching for his red card.

Ironically, the Dons looked a different team with 10 men! They began playing with a new-found determination that had been clearly absent for the first hour.

Jemal Johnson was booked for trying to fool the referee with a dive, inside the U's penalty area, but the livewire winger responded by delivering the corner for the hosts' equaliser on 66 minutes. Wilbraham headed home emphatically at the far post.

United regained the initiative during the closing minutes, but they could not fashion a winner.

Scott Vernon might have snatched the winner, only for him to take a fraction too long to get in his shot and O'Hanlon made a great block.

Then substitute Gillespie looked on in anguish as his last-minute shot rolled just the wrong side of the far post. That summed up the U's evening - so near and yet so far.


MK DONS: Gueret 7, Cummings 5 (sub Stirling, 46), O'Hanlon 7, Llera 7, Lewington 6, JOHNSON 8, Leven 6 (sub Wright, 40), Howell 6, Puncheon 5, Wilbraham 7, Baldock 7 (sub Flo, 78). Unused subs: Gerba, Abbey.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker 7, Maybury 8, BALDWIN 8, Reid 7, Jackson 6, Perkins 7, Izzet 7, Hammond 7, Yeates 6 (sub Wordsworth, 87), Platt 7 (sub Gillespie, 72) Vernon 7. Unused subs: White, Heath, Cousins.

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Greater Manchester). Attendance: 8,408.

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