MK Dons 1 - 1 Preston NE
Saturday 2nd March 2013 - 15:00 (League One)
Not a game that will live long in the memory bank but nevertheless a battling point for North End which carries on the unbeaten sequence and certainly looks better on paper than some of the efforts under the previous regime. North End gave the Dons a goal start but came back quickly into the game and for long periods this only ever looked liked like it was going to finish with honours even. Fast improving Will Hayhurst made it two in two weeks as the local lad, born in Blackburn, smashed home the equaliser much to the delight of his watching parents.
North End started with a howler as, with less than 90 seconds on the clock, the usually dependable Bailey Wright hesitated on a clearance and the ball was knocked to Chicksen who fired the Dons ahead with a well placed shot. North End immediately countered and five miutes later a peach of a cross from Lee Holmes found Hayhurst at the back post and the lad made no mistake sending the 678 travelling fans in to raptures behind Declan Rudd's goal. The game then evened up very quickly and North End's best chances were two shots from Beavon, one which was blocked and the other which was saved. Just on the stroke of half time Paul Huntington made a fantastic double block when it looked certain that the home side would take the lead but the big centre back got his frame in the way and we would live to fight another day.
North End went off the boil slightly in the second period and adopted a more 4-4-1-1 formation with King dropping a little deeper and Grayson's men being content to play on the break. The home side were not offering a lot in all honestty and I have to say the watch was ticking round very slowly as the afternoon wore on. Man of the match David Buchanan made a superb block on the hour mark and later clashed heads with Wright - perhaps it knocked a little sense into both of them after last week's mix up at Swindon. We had a big shout for a penalty with 15 minutes to go but the referee decided Hayhurst had been fouled outside the box and the subsequent free kick was well saved by the MK keeper. The home side pressurised late on but North End held firm for an excellent point, albeit with a fighting but scrappy away display.
Five points from nine then since Westley's departure which is three more than I thought we would get under the previous regime. Clearly Grayson has much work to do and I'm sure he is aware of that but the one thing we have now is team spirit and organisation. I thought Buchanan was outstanding on Saturday and young Hayhurst is improving by the game. Once we are safe I think Grayson will start to change things and have a look a several other players but for now this group are doing plenty to ensure our survival and to form the basis of a squad for next season.