Walsall 1 Milton Keynes Dons 1
There have been many times in Paul Merson's life when he's felt like turning the clock back - but this wasn't one of them.
Almost a year ago to the day, Merson was part of a Walsall team denied three points at Wrexham only by the excellence of the home side's keeper Matt Baker. In fact, it took a late Julian Bennett equaliser to earn the Saddlers even a point.
This time, injured Saddlers player-manager Merson was on the sidelines looking on in frustration, clutching his dug-out like a comfort blanket as he watched a Groundhog Day scenario unfold before him. Same opposition keeper, same string of fine saves, same Bennett equaliser, same 1-1 draw.
To be fair to Milton Keynes Dons, their honest manager Danny Wilson and their prize possession Izale McLeod, it was a fair enough result.
Injury-ravaged Walsall had too many key men missing and six teenagers in their starting line-up. And, for all Merson's moans about one-time Hereford United shot-stopper Baker, who he tried to buy him before MK Dons did, there were enough chances for either side to have won it.
"Sometimes the game's just about luck," said a philosophical Merson. "You can say someone's a great manager, he's a good manager or he's a crap manager but really this job's all about chances and depending on whether your players put them away or not makes you look good or bad.
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"Michael Standing's missed an absolute sitter and, if it goes in, it's a different story.
"That was one of three or four very good saves their keeper made. He did us the same way up at Wrexham last season, and it's doubly frustrating because he was the keeper I wanted. I couldn't get him at the time and he went to Milton Keynes instead.
"This game could have been wrapped up and in the end we only got something in the last seconds. But it sums the day up for me that their keeper was man of the match."
Three times Baker denied Walsall's top scorer Matty Fryatt before the break.
After keeping out the game's first real shot, which skidded off the wet turf, Baker had to react smartly when young Ishmel Demontagnac broke dangerously down the left and Fryatt got a half-hit far-post connection to a cross which came at an awkward height.
Then, from Simon Osborn's free-kick, Fryatt contrived a clever back flick with his head and Baker's reflexes were up to the job again.
And, at the start of the second half came another opening as Demontagnac - the best of the Saddlers' six teens - chased a lost cause down the left.
Standing should have buried his header, but Baker guessed the right way and, when the ball cannoned to safety off Fryatt, Walsall had every reason to believe their luck was out.
The longer it went on, the greater grew the belief in an MK Dons side seeking a third successive win and long-time Wolverhampton Wanderers target McLeod appeared to have won it for them with just 17 minutes left.
A super turn on the half way line took out two Walsall men and he weaved his way through to the edge of the box before shooting. Goalkeeper John Ruddy parried his shot, but Gareth Edds poked home, merely adding to the insult as far as the home fans were concerned given that, back in the days of Colin Lee, Edds was a Saddlers trialist.
Had McLeod, with another storming run down the left opted this time not to pass, instead of running straight into Ruddy, Edds might even have been on the winning team.
But Walsall had the final word. Deep into injury time, the ageless Osborn - sadly suspended next week after clocking up a fifth booking of the season - crossed for Bennett and the centre-half powered home. "Great ball in, great header," said Merson.
It was actually Bennett's first goal since that day at the Racecourse Ground.
"It was always going to be tight as they were never going to come and open up against us but, even though our goal came in the last minute, I thought we at least deserved a draw," said Merson.
"We've got to keep battling away while we get our players
fit, but if they keep on giving you that, that's all you can ask for."