It was a frustrating evening at the office for both MK Dons and Preston as they played out an unglamorous 0-0 at stadium:mk.
After the late drama of Saturday’s win over Oldham, Dons struggled to carve themselves many opportunities in front of goal, though Daniel Powell should have netted in each half with the best of what the home side could create.
Preston too were void of clear-cut chances, but found themselves up against a determined Stephen Gleeson and Dele Alli in the centre of the park, getting their hands dirty in breaking up play in the centre of the park.
Karl Robinson made just one change to the side which beat Oldham Athletic on Saturday, replacing Luke Chadwick with Dele Alli in the centre of midfield, allowing Ben Reeves to return to his preferred slot in behind Izale McLeod.
It was a fairly subdued opening 10 minutes, with action on the field fairly sparse. Scott Laird sent a rocket narrowly over David Martin’s crossbar after just three minutes before stadium:mk rose as one to remember Sir Tom Finney in the seventh minute, who died last Friday.
During the tribute, action continued out on the pitch and Samir Carruthers felt he was tripped in the penalty area as he skipped through the Preston defence. Referee Mark Heywood turned away his protests, and it would be the last thing Carruthers did. Unable to shake off the knock he took, he was replaced by George Baldock.
Daniel Powell should have given Dons the lead prior to that though, but wasted his chance. A great one-two between Reeves and McLeod allowed space to open up for Powell, operating on the left, but after being slid in, he placed his shot straight at keeper Declan Rudd with the whole of the goal to aim at.
And that was about the height of the first half excitement. While Preston had the lion share of the possession, their killer ball simple wasn’t up to scratch. Dean Lewington and Lee Hodson absorbed the pressure by and large, muting the visitors’ attacking threats.
When they did get a sight of goal though, David Martin needed to be at his best, keeping out Joe Garner’s header. Otherwise, that was as exciting as it got in the opening 45 minutes.
In a bid to chance the game and add some enthusiasm, Robinson replaced Hodson with Alan Smith, switching to a 4-4-2 as Baldock slotted in to the defence.
But it was Preston that came out of the dressing rooms the brighter, and had two great chances within the opening five minutes to put the visitors ahead. Kevin Davies was inches away from heading in Neil Kilkenny’s dangerous free kick before Keith Keane found himself with plenty of time and space in the Dons box, but could only watch on as his strike came back off the post.
After missed Dons’ best chance in the first half, Powell almost made up for it in spectacular fashion on the hour mark. Somehow latching on to Stephen Gleeson’s lump forward, he beat his man and then Rudd, who found himself in No Man’s Land. But as he cut back inside the stranded keeper, Powell gave Tom Clarke enough time to race back onto his goal-line, and head away the goal-bound effort.
Preston though went straight up the other end and almost made Baldock pay the ultimate cost for dawdling on the edge of his box, as Laird picked his pocket but found the wrong side of the net with his shot.
Rudd then had the chance to make amends for his earlier rush of blood to the head when he slid in at Reeves’ feet after excellent work down the right flank by McLeod.
Ultimately for both sides and supporters though, the overwhelming emotion was one of frustration. At key moments, killer balls were just out of reach, touches were loose and shots simply wasted, scuffed wide or blocked at close range.
The result, though less polished than other 0-0 draws fans will witness, lifts Dons up to 9th in the League 1 table, six points from sixth.
Referee: Mark Heywood
Attendance: 7,279 (516)
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Hodson (Smith 46), Kay, Spence, Gleeson, Alli, Powell, Carruthers (Baldock 12) McLeod
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Chadwick, Rasulo, Hall, Hickford
Preston North End: Rudd, Keane (Brownhill 73), Laird, Clarke, Wright, Davies (Beavon 73), Garner, Welsh, King, Wiseman (Humphrey 57), Kilkenny
Subs not used: Stuckmann, Gallagher, Buchanan, Hume
Booked: Clarke, Smith, Kilkenny, McLeod