Balanta was a worthy replacement for veteran Hamann. (©PAphotos)
A dazzling goal from Angelo Balanta ensured MK Dons secured a point at home against Colchester United at the weekend.
The Dons were forced to come from behind with Magnus Okuonghae firing home from 13 yards after a well-placed corner from the left by Anthony Wordsworth put Colchester 1-0 up, only for super sub Balanta to draw the Dons level.
United missed a host of chances to add to their lead, whereas the Dons looked surprisingly flat and lacking in inspiration going forward. It is often said that a team’s promotion credentials are often shown through picking up points in games where they have not been at their best, and that could well be the case for Karl Robinson’s players this season.
The U’s started well, immediately putting the Dons under the cosh with David Mooney often opening them up.
The Irishman, on loan from Reading, could have put United in front with a header after 25 minutes, but he couldn’t keep it down, as the 11,000 Dons fans breathed a sigh of relief. Minutes later Didi Hamann bent a shot just round the post at the other end, and the former German international and Champions League winner had another opportunity later on from a sharp free kick, but it was to be Okuonghae who was to get his name on the score sheet first.
Okunoghae’s strike after 26 minutes could well have been the match winner in one of the more lacklustre games of the season. But Balanta, who came on as a substitute at half time for veteran Hamann, proved to be the hero for MK. The Colombian made a fantastic run before curling home a brilliant solo goal, finding the bottom corner. His penetrating sprints down the wing and then at the Colchester defence left them seemingly shell-shocked.
Colchester had undoubtedly had the better first half, leaving Dons fans looking to their strong bench to turn the game around. In fact, Balanta immediately energised the Dons after coming on at the restart, his corner just two minutes into the second half finding Danny Woodards, whose effort was only denied by a goal line clearance from Andy Bond who managed to scramble the ball away.
But whilst it may have looked like the Dons had seized the bull by the horns and were really going for the equaliser, they nearly conceded again soon after Ashley Vincent’s sizzling shot was only kept out by the woodwork.
After that, the game could have easily gone either way, with both sides having chances late on. Mathias Kouo-Doumbe had to clear off the Dons line to deny Vincent from grabbing all three points for the U’s, while Jabo Ibehre could have tipped the balance the other way, only to be stopped by referee Mick Russell for a foul on Paul Reid. Liam Henderson and Kayode Odejayi also came close in the closing stages of the match for Colchester, but the Dons escaped with a point.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.