A COMICAL own goal three minutes from time from Antony Kay spared Leeds United’s blushes in a flattering 1-1 draw with MK Dons.
Trailing 1-0 thanks to Rob Hall’s strike on the half-hour, Leeds were increasingly bereft of ideas, with their six-match unbeaten streak looking like being surrendered in tame fashion.
Butt they reckoned without Kay, with the Yorkshireman - under no pressure in the box - seeeing his clearing header trickle past David Martin and into the net off the post - following Charlie Taylor’s optimistic cross.
The goal provided a redeeming feature to a lacklustre display, which saw the hosts start 2016 with a whimper.
MK, who came into the game with no away win since early August and with just five points on their travels so far this term - deservedly led following a well-executed low strike from Rob Hall, but thankfully for Leeds, relief was at hand.
By and large, Leeds producing a display palpably lacking in quality, with Steve Evans’ troops looking nothing like a side who came into the game on the back of a six-match unbeaten streak.
On this evidence, Leeds need to do some work in the transfer window to bolster their attacking options with their lack of squad depth and quality underlined in a largely abject performance in front of a wholly frustrated home faithful.
Steve Evans made two changes to his starting line-up with Souleymane Doukara handed his first league start in over a year since December 30, 2014 - in place of Chris Wood, who missed out with a hamstring injury.
It represented a vote of confidence for Doukara, chosen ahead of Antenucci, who remained on the bench for Leeds.
United’s other starting change saw Lewis Cook return to the starting line-up in place of Tom Adeyemi, while Lee Erwin was handed a berth on the bench.
MK Dons, without an away win since the opening day of the season - at Rotherham, who were then managed by Evans - made five changes to the side who lost 1-0 at Birmingham on Bank Holiday Monday.
Antony Kay, Hall, Darren Potter, Josh Murphy and Nicky Maynard came in for Karl Robinson’s side, with strikers Dean Bowditch and Sam Gallagher among those who revert to the bench.
It was a half in which United progressively got worse and more edgy, with the visitors deserving their lead, thanks to Rob Hall’s clinical strike on the half-hour mark.
United just could not get going and did not test MK keeper Martin, with Doukara looking isolated up front on his own, with MK growing into proceedings with their endeavour rewarded by a well-taken opener.
The warning signs were there from the off, with Sol Bamba making a timely clearance to deny the lurking Maynard in the box following Carl Baker’s centre.
Sam Byram then had to show his prowess to make an important block to deny the onrushing Baker as he threatened to break into the box, with the MK Dons player recieving lengthy attention following the tackle, which was a good one.
Despite endeavouring to continue, Baker was soon forced off to be replaced by Dean Bowditch.
At the other end, Leeds showed intent, but scant quality with Byram failing to pick out Luke Murphy in front of goal, with visiting skipper Dean Lewington clearing.
Kyle McFadzean then did well to clear Charlie Taylor’s centre, but it was sparse offerings on the offensive front from Leeds, despite earning several corners.
MK gained confidence from the hosts slipshod showing with Leeds suffering a big scare on 24 minutes.
Hall got on the wrong side of Taylor, whose panicky challenge brought down the visiting player, but despite strident MK appeals for a penalty, referee Jeremy Simpson signalled for a corner, deeming that the Leeds full-back had got a touch to the ball, which looked dubious.
Bamba was then cautioned after felling Maynard in full-flight after initial slack play from Bridcutt, who was dispossessed with the visitors starting to scent blood.
The opener promptly arrived from Hall and no-one could say it hadn’t been coming.
He coolly fired home the visitors after latching onto Maynard’s low centre on the right, with his precision finish from twenty yards out beating Silvestri before nestling in the corner.
The setback failed to stir Leeds into life, with home fans starting to get increasingly anxious, with a few boos ringing out at the break following a disjointed half which ended with McFadzean clearing with Doukara threatening to bear down on goal following a route one punt from Marco Silvestri.
Evans played his first hand at the break, bringing on Mirco Antenucci, with Murphy making way as the United chief provided Doukara with some much needed support up top in a 4-4-2 formation.
An early scare for MK show Martin hesitate, but with the visiting keeper stranded out of his goal, a clearing boot managed to clear the danger.
It was the precursor to better fayre from the hosts with Leeds’ build-up play slow and lacking conviction.
Leeds needed something to pep them into life and it almost arrived when Lewis Cook, extremely quiet in the first half, nipped the ball off the toes of an MK defender after the visitors were caught upfield following a corner.
But the teenager’s pass to Doukara, with MK players sprinting back into position, was a poor one but amid the consternation, Byram was felled by McFadzean.
Taylor then contrived United’s best moment by a country mile with a lovely flighted curling free-kick beating Martin all ends up, but unfortunately cannoning against his left-hand post.
Erwin was soon thrown into the fray for the ineffectual Doukara, partnering Antenucci in a new-look forward line.
It was the latter who finally conjured some quality from open play on the left, showing good footwork with his pullback diverting off McFadzean into the grateful arms of Martin, who made a scrambling save at his near post.
Leeds started to up the ante, with Hall booked for a challenge on the half-way line on Antenucci, but despite more pressure, the MK defence was holding firm.
At the other end, Silvestri then produced a blinding save to keep Leeds in the game after Maynard dispossessed Liam Cooper, with the Italian making a superb one-headed reaction save to deny the striker’s goalbound shot on 69 minutes.
Try as they might, Leeds could not find a way through and were starting to look increasingly bereft of ideas as the clock ticked by, with Lewie Coyle replacing the tired Dallas on 77 minutes - with the youngster reverting to left-back with Taylor pushed forward.
Try as they might, Leeds could not find a way through, but they reckoned without divine intervention from Kay.
The big defender comically steered a header past Martin, which went in off the post following the most hopeful of crosses from Taylor to hand Leeds a flattering point.
Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton, Bamba, Cooper, Taylor; Byram, Cook, Bridcutt, L Murphy (Antenucci 45), Dallas (Coyle 77); Doukara (Erwin 58). Substitutes unused: Peacock-Farrell, Bellusci, Phillips, Adeyemi.
MK Dons: Martin; Spence, McFadzean, Kay, Lewington; Potter, Carruthers; Baker (Bowditch 15), Hall (Walsh 90), J Murphy; Maynard (Church 84). Substitutes unused: Cropper, Hodson, Reeves, Gallagher.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).