REPORT: Mansfield Town 1-1 MK Dons
Mansfield Town and MK Dons battled out an exciting 1-1 draw at One Call Stadium as the showdown between the division's two meanest defences saw the points shared this afternoon.
Although there were plenty of chances at both ends on a freezing afternoon, the keepers were only beaten by two long range shots of the highest quality.
Jacob Mellis zipped a 26 yard shot into the net on 17 minutes to break the deadlock, but Jordan Houghton, on his 100th Football League appearance, matched it with a spectacular 24th minute equaliser for the second-placed visitors.
The first half was end to end thrills, the second half less so with defences and keepers firmly on top and the result a fair one.
Mansfield boss David Flitcroft was able to name an unchanged side. He had slight worries over knocks to Tyler Walker, Matt Preston and CJ Hamilton after Tuesday's 1-0 win at Morecambe, but all three were declared fit.
Defender Hayden White again missed out with injury but striker Craig Davies was fit again and named on the bench.
Stags went into the game unbeaten in seven games in all competitions while the Dons were also seven unbeaten, having won their last five on the trot.
Pearce was forced to head away the first long throw from Healey in the opening minute.
But it was the home side who created the first real chance on three minutes as swift passes from Mellis and Khan got Walker into the right of the box, and he forced Nicholls to save low at his near post.
Two corners followed, then a deflected Benning shot won a third as Stags piled on the early pressure.
On eight minutes Khan found Hamilton in the box, and he lifted the ball up delightfully for Walker to send a rising volley over the bar.
But on 10 minutes Stags did have a let-off as Olejnik failed to collect and hold the ball and it span loose towards Aneke, who turned and fired low but straight back into the keeper's grateful hands.
Sweeney was booked for a late tackle on Williams as he tried to break down the right on 13 minutes. Lewington hoisted the free kick into the box where Walsh headed straight at Olejnik.
Dons skipper Lewington was warned about his players delaying every Stags free kick as the visitors conceded another on the left.
From that the home side roared in front with a brilliant goal by Mellis on 17 minutes.
Benning's free kick was poor and cleared out to Mellis, 25 yards from goal, from where he smashed a spectacular rocket half-volley through everyone into the net with Nicholls having no chance.
It was almost 2-0 three minutes later as Stags broke three-on-three after Bishop had won a tackle. Khan advanced and then set up Walker to his right, but the striker's low finish was just wide of the far post.
Instead it was MK who were level on 24 minutes – and the goal was almost as spectacular as Stags' opener.
The ball ran to Houghton 25 yards from goal and he let fly with a spectacular rising shot that bulged the top right hand corner.
Benning sent a low shot at Nicholls from distance after good work chasing a lost cause by Walker.
Second later Olejnik beat away a low 20-yard Healey shot to his right as a thoroughly entertaining game continued to ebb and flow.
Stags had another big let-off on 35 minutes as Aneke robbed Mellis on the edge of the box and turned superbly before seeing his low finish hit the right post with Olejnik helpless.
Walker was screaming for a penalty after going down under Walsh's challenge, but the referee was unimpressed.
On 38 minutes Hamilton cut inside from the right and flashed a shot just wide of the far post as the thrills continued to the end of an excellent half.
Both sides made a change at the break with Butcher on for Khan for Stags and Brittain taking over from Moore-Taylor for the visitors.
With the wind now behind the Stags, Butcher almost made an immediate impact as his right wing cross took a deflection inches wide for a corner from which Sweeney nodded wide.
Benning was booked for bringing down Gilbey on 51 minutes.
Olejnik was alert to make another important save as Healey tried to beat him on his near post on 54 minutes.
The home keeper, clearly in some pain since the Aneke collision, made two more stops on 64 minutes, the first a superb one-handed save to keep out Agard's low shot and the second to deny Gilbey at his near post.
Back came Stags and Mellis was inches wide from distance while Hamilton whipped a shot into the sidenetting, again after cutting inside.
With 12 minutes to go the visitors almost stole it was Aneke chased an over-hit cross and laid it back for Brittain, who lashed over from a good position.
Brittain was booked on 81 minutes for his late challenge on Benning. Before the kick was taken Davies replaced Walker up front for Mansfield.
But, even with four added minutes, neither side could conjure up a late winner.
STAGS: Olejnik; Preston, Pearce, Sweeney; Hamilton (Atkinson 90), Mellis, Khan (Butcher HT), Bishop, Benning; Rose, Walker (Davies 82). Subs not used: Logan, Elsnik, Gibbens, Graham.
DONS: Nicholls, Williams, Lewington, Walsh, Gilbey, Aneke (Watson 84), Agard, Moore-Taylor (Brittain HT), Houghton, Cargill, Healey. Subs not used: Moore, Hancox, Simpson, D'Ath, Asonganyi.
REFEREE: Seb Stocksbridge of Tyne & Wear.
ATTENDANCE: 4,329 (294 away).
CHAD STAGS MAN OF THE MATCH: Neal Bishop.