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REPORT | MK Dons 1-1 Wrexham AFC

McClean header earns point as both sides reduced to ten in fiery clash

20 February 2024

Match Reports

REPORT | MK Dons 1-1 Wrexham AFC

McClean header earns point as both sides reduced to ten in fiery clash

20 February 2024

James McClean’s first-half header helped Wrexham earn a point away to promotion rivals MK Dons, in a fiery game in which both sides finished with ten men.

McClean gave Wrexham a deserved lead, but Dan Kemp equalised as MK Dons responded well to going behind.

Controversy struck in the second-half, however, when Arthur Okonkwo spilled Joe Tomlinson’s shot and MK Dons believed the ball had been dragged over the line as the keeper recovered. Dean Lewington was sent off for his protests, before Will Boyle picked up a second yellow card as both sides finished with ten men.

With the fixtures coming thick and fast, Phil Parkinson made five changes from the team which started the 1-0 win at home to Notts County to Saturday.

Luke Young captained the team in his 250th Wrexham game, while Luke Bolton, Jacob Mendy, Sam Dalby and Jack Marriott also came into the starting XI.

It meant McClean moving into a more central role, while Paul Mullin, Ryan Barnett and Elliot Lee all started on the bench. Steven Fletcher and James Jones were the two players to miss out.

Marriott, starting his second consecutive away game, set about making himself a pest for the MK Dons defence from early on.

He nearly managed to sneak between Warren O’Hora and Michael Kelly in the fifth minute, as the defender shepherded the ball back to the keeper but could not quite get a touch.

Five minutes later, he snatched possession from Daniel Harvie on the halfway line and charged forward. Marriott hit the ball hard across goal, but the deflection off O’Hora was kind for Kelly.

Marriott was in again on the quarter-hour, this time when a long ball bounced all the way through, but – from a tight angle – he volleyed into the side-netting left-footed.

Dalby was next to try his luck a minute later, pouncing when MK Dons were caught at the back again, but his low shot was saved and Wrexham could not make the rebound count.

Wrexham’s pressure paid off on 22 minutes, when McClean met Young’s outswinging corner with a diving header at the near post, that beat Kelly.

The lead was fully deserved, but lasted just four minutes before Kemp applied to the finishing touch to an incisive passing move with a powerful near-post finish to level.

It was MK Dons’ first real chance but they nearly turned the game completely on its head in the 29th minute when Alex Gilbey skipped inside and shot low on his right foot – Okonkwo saved well to his left.

Wrexham weathered the storm, however, and started to grow back into the game. First, Dalby and Bolton combined well on 35 minutes, only for the striker to shoot well over.

A minute later, James McClean found time and space in the middle of the MK Dons’ half and unleashed a fierce, rising strike from 35 yards but his effort whistled high and wide.

Andy Cannon was next to try his luck, shooting powerfully from the edge of the box on 37 minutes, but his shot deflected clear off a defender.

Wrexham received a let-off five minutes later, however, when McClean sold Boyle short with a backpass and the hosts counter-attacked with pace. Gilbey received the ball and cut inside onto his right foot, but dragged his shot wide.

It then took an Arthur Okonkwo special to keep the scores level at the break – the goalkeeper producing a stunning one-handed stop to turn Harvie’s curling shot, which looked destined for the top corner, onto the post in first-half stoppage time.

The visitors came out strong after the break, however, with Marriott involved from the off again.

It was the striker’s darting run that created a shooting chance for McClean on 47 minutes but, from a tight angle, the Irishman’s effort was into the side-netting.

At the other end, Boyle picked up the game’s first booking in the 48th minute, for a cynical foul in the middle of the park.

Young then won possession in middle on 50 minutes and, in the same sliding movement, played Marriott in behind the defence but Kelly saved his powerful left-footed effort.

The game exploded around the hour-mark, however, as MK Dons thought they had taken the lead when Okonkwo spilled Joe Tomlinson’s effort. In truth, the shot was straight at Okonkwo, but he fumbled and – though he recovered – MK Dons were adamant he had carried the ball over the line in the process.

Wrexham counter-attacked, and it took a good clearance over his own bar by Lewis Bate as Marriott headed across goal towards Dalby. The drama was not over there, however, as Dons captain Lewington earned a straight red card for his reaction to the referee.

The visitors looked to drive home the man advantage, bringing on Mullin, Lee and Barnett, before Ollie Palmer also joined the fray shortly afterwards.

Just as Wrexham were building pressure, however, the man advantage was wiped out on 77 minutes. Dennis beat Boyle on the edge of the area and was tripped by the defender, who earned a second yellow card for the foul.

Tomlinson whipped the subsequent free-kick just over, while Mullin’s shot at the other end was deflected wide on 80 minutes.

Wrexham had more of the attacking possession as the clocked ticked down, including through eight minutes time added on, but it took another fine save from Okonkwo to seal a point. Tomlinson was unmarked in the area in the 97th minute, but the keeper spread himself to save.


MK Dons: Kelly, Norman (Harrison 90), Lewington, O’Hora, Tomlinson, Bate, Gilbey, Wearne (Dennis 64), Harvie, Payne (Williams 79), Kemp (Lofthouse 64)

Subs not used: Harness, Robson, Tezgel

Wrexham: Okonkwo, Cleworth, O’Connell, Boyle, Bolton (Barnett 63), Cannon, Young, McClean, Mendy (Lee 63), Marriott (Mullin 63), Dalby (Palmer 71)

Subs not used: Howard, Tozer, Davies

Referee: Sam Purkiss

Attendance: 11,282 (1,436 away)


MK Dons: Harvie (82, dissent)

Wrexham: Boyle (48, foul), O’Connell (61, unsportsmanlike behaviour)


MK Dons: Lewington (60, dissent)

Wrexham: Boyle (77, second bookable offence)

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