MK Dons 1-1 Shrewsbury Seven Things: Whalley’s wonder-strike saves Salop

Shaun Whalley – zimbio.com

Shaun Whalley’s stunning late equalizer for Shrewsbury Town cancelled out Peter Pawlett’s opener and forced MK Dons to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw in Buckinghamshire. Here’s seven things from the game.

Defences on top

The first half was high on endeavour and organization from both teams but low on quality and intent. Colossal centre-back Ethan Ebanks-Landell dominated an isolated Stefan Payne while MK Dons’ selfless runner Osman Sow, who drifted over to the left channel when Chuks Aneke cut inside, struggled to get any change out of Aristote Nsiala. The Salop centre-back and his partner, Mat Sadler, benefited from the return from injury of Abu Ogogo, who did a lot of selfless work ahead of them in midfield. Likewise Ed Upson and Conor McGrandles worked hard to protected Ebanks-Landell and Joe Walsh, who defended with aggression.

Two key chances

Shrewsbury forced MK Dons into aimless forward passes, making full-backs George Williams and Scott Golbourne reluctant to play out from the back. The visitors looked more comfortable when they were pressing for the ball than when they had it themselves, with Jon Nolan not at his creative best. They did though create a golden opportunity when Alex Rodman’s soft effort from outside the box was parried by Lee Nicholls, but Stefan Payne blazed over from close range on 21 minutes. Shortly before half-time, the best passing move of the game involving Aneke and Peter Pawlett found Sow, but the forward’s tame effort one-on-one was pushed wide by Dean Henderson.

Nombe’s impact

MK Dons academy graduate Sam Nombe’s work rate has been praised by Robbie Neilson and when the youngster replaced Sow early in the second half, he made an instant impact. Nombe shifted the ball on for Aneke, who did well to hold onto it for long enough to find Pawlett, who got in behind James Bolton before finishing with composure on 56 minutes.

Disjointed Salop

After the opener, Shrewsbury didn’t look comfortable when tasked with breaking down MK’s solid defensive unit. They lacked the technical precision to create space and switch play effectively, while their hosts counter-attacked down the left through Nombe and Pawlett, with the latter’s 70th minute cross just evading the stretching Kieran Agard.

Whalley’s stunner

Neilson’s men had carried out the Scot’s tactical instructions to a tee after the opener, but there was nothing they could do about Whalley’s exceptional 86th minute leveller. The experienced winger unleashed a wonderful right-footed 20-yard strike from the right channel, which flew into the far corner to send Paul Hurst and the fans into raptures. In a dramatic finale, the away side played with renewed confidence and Rodman was denied a winner by George Williams’ late block.

Mixed day for MK

Though they didn’t get the result they wanted – and Neilson expressed his disappointment after the game – MK Dons can at least take heart from the fact they stifled a second-placed side that is normally very brisk and clinical in the final third. The downside to the afternoon however is that they are now 10 points off the top six berth that was targeted in pre-season and it remains to be seen whether they can find the attacking fluency to generate the consistency required to close the gap.

More needed from Salop

For much of the game, it didn’t look like Shrewsbury had a player capable of conjuring up the magic Whalley produced late on. They cannot always create chances through high pressing and swift attacks, because opposing teams will follow MK Dons’ approach of dropping their central midfielders deeper to congest space. Therefore, more moments out of the blue are required for them to maintain their promotion push.