It would be a frustrating start to 2014 for MK Dons as they had to settle for a 0-0 draw with a very negative Colchester side on New Year’s Day.
United goalkeeper Sam Walker pulled off a string of spectacular saves to keep out the home side as they desperately tried to break down their stubborn defence.
Stephen Gleeson, Darren Potter and both made the keeper work, with Dale Jennings and Patrick Bamford both coming close too but to no avail.
Gleeson served his one match suspension against Brentford on Sunday and returned to the starting line-up, replacing Alan Smith. There was one suspension being served though - that of manager Karl Robinson, who was banned from the touchline after accepting an FA misconduct charge for ‘language and/or behaviour in or around the dressing area’ at the end of the Brentford game.
Dons began the game very much on the front foot and dominated the early proceedings. Dale Jennings and Ben Reeves had early chances seconds apart, but saw both cleared from deep within the six yard box as Colchester got men behind the ball.
Patrick Bamford, playing his final game at stadium:mk, was given a great reception by the home supporters prior to kick off and nearly gave them the perfect going away present when he linked up well with Reeves, who caught Tom Eastman napping at the back, allowing Bamford space in the box to shoot, but Walker was again a match for it.
Dale Jennings, whose loan spell is set to end on Saturday too, looked desperate to get himself on the scoresheet in the opening 20 minutes. Rather than sticking to his left wing, the man on loan from Barnsley was floating in and around the front quartet, cutting back on to his right foot to chance his arm from range.
Samir Carruthers, who has really grown into his role in the Dons midfield in the last few weeks, was involved in much of the attacking play too but the home side couldn’t quite find an opening in the first half hour.
As the rain fell harder towards the end of the half, chances began to dry up for the home side. Colchester seemed quite content to sit back and play out for a goalless draw, taking their time at throw-ins and free kicks, ensuring they’d go in level at the interval.
Dons’ eagerness and quick-tempo football continued into the second period, and they created two good opportunities early on but still couldn’t register one on the score sheet. First, Shaun Williams forced Walker into a save from a 25 yard free kick, bent up and over the wall. Walker parried out for a corner, and Gleeson at the second attempt picked out Potter, whose header was just out of Bamford’s reach and the ball landed just inches wide of the post.
Although all Dons, there was still nothing working in front of goal. The introduction of Dele Alli on the hour mark lifted the spirits of the crowd somewhat, but Colchester were defending deep and getting men behind the ball.
George Baldock replaced Lee Hodson and Daniel Powell came on in place of the impressive Carruthers. Having not kicked a ball since November through injury, Powell’s impact was almost immediate too, racing from box to box, catching the visitors on the counter, but Walker just tipped his strike wide of the post.
Walker pulled off the save of the day with seven minutes to go when Reeves slid in Bamford down the right, who in turn cut back for Gleeson to shoot. Walker did brilliantly to get his left hand to it, tipping it up onto the bar, before it landed safely on the roof of the net.
The Colchester keeper was certainly worth his wages as he pulled off two more magnificent saves to keep out Reeves and Potter, before substitute, and former Dons loanee Clinton Morrison headed onto his own crossbar in the dying minutes, as Dons had to settle for a point.
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Attendance: 7,879 (354)
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Hodson (Baldock 74), Williams, Spence, Potter, Gleeson, Reeves, Carruthers (Powell 79), Jennings (Alli 60), Bamford
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Smith, Kay
Colchester United: Walker, Wright, Dickson, Okuonghae (Morrison 90), Eastmond (Gilbey 79), Watt (Vose 65), Bean, Ibehre, Eastman, Wilson, Garbutt
Subs not used: Cousins, Sears, Turgott, Olufemi
Booked: Potter, Spence, Wilson