If a game could epitomise an entire season, it would be Dons’ disappointing 1-1 draw with Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Tuesday night.
On a bobbling pitch, neither side really looked interested in going out to take all three points. David Connolley opened the scoring for Portsmouth after 21 minutes, before a rocket shot from Shaun Williams levelled it up six minutes later.
Izale McLeod, making his return to Fratton Park after his January transfer, looked out of sorts and the crowd quickly got on top of him. After missing two fairly straight forward chances, he was withdrawn 12 minutes into the second half, ending the pantomime he was starring in with the home supporters – just about the only excitement there was throughout the 90 minutes.
David Martin didn’t recover from the injury he sustained at Carlisle on Saturday, with stand-in Ian McLoughlin taking his place, making his first league start. Daniel Powell replaced Chris Lines in midfield, and Izale McLeod made his return to Fratton Park, taking over from Ryan Lowe up front.
As expected, McLeod wasn’t given the heroes welcome on his comeback, with the Portsmouth fans rejoicing his early offside and scuffed shot wide.
Dons had the better of the play in the opening 15 minutes, with both Powell and Luke Chadwick looking dangerous on the ball running at the Pompey defence.
Making his first league start for Dons, McLoughlin’s kicking looked shaky early on, but he did well to keep his cool during a 17th minute goal-mouth scramble, throwing himself at Patrick Agyemang’s feet as the battle ensued, before it was eventually hacked clear by Powell.
Dons survived another close call a couple of minutes later as Therry Racon came within inches of converting from 10 yards.
But the home side, who haven’t won a game since mid-October, did eventually take the lead in the 21st minute. Jed Wallace’s free kick from the left touchline was flicked on by David Connolly, looping up over everybody and into the far top corner.
The lead didn’t last long though, five minutes in fact. A long ball pumped into the box was well controlled by Shaun Williams after McLeod’s flick on. He turned his man and rocketed into the top corner, leaving Simon Eastwood with no chance, levelling things at 1-1.
As things settled, the nervy looking Dons defence looked more and more like a ship heading for the rocks. McLoughlin’s kicking was hit and miss, while MacKenzie couldn’t predict the bobbles and often played his team-mates into trouble as he looked up field.
Not that it made a bit of difference though – Agyemang’s first touch was second rate almost every time he received the ball and let Dons off the hook at least three times as he shaped to shoot from just inside the area.
Connolly thought he’d doubled the lead with 10 minutes to go in the first half, but didn’t account for the linesman’s flag catching him three or four yards offside after Wallace’s back heel drew out McLoughlin, sticking the ball in the back of the net anyway.
McLeod, getting ever-more agitated at not winning a decision against some rough-housing with the Portsmouth defence, went down holding his groin on halfway before getting a pep-talk from Robinson on the touchline, before resuming his role up front.
As half time arrived, neither side could really argue that they should be ahead.
It was a scrappy start to the second half, and one which McLeod will probably want to forget. After shanking an early chance well of the mark, much to the delight of the home fans, the striker then had one of the most bizarre misses of the season. After great work from Powell on the flank, he worked himself some space to chip the ball into the danger zone. He picked out an unmarked McLeod at the far post. All it needed was a touch, but incredibly, McLeod watched it float past him and out of play.
Needless to say, he was taken off within 12 minutes of the restart, replaced by Ryan Lowe.
Worryingly for Robinson, Shaun Williams was forced down the tunnel shortly after the hour mark, replaced by Jon Otsemobor.
It was clear that the lack of Dean Bowditch on the field for Dons was having a big affect on their play. There was no width on either flank despite Powell persistence down the right, though Chicksen was sent to the left as Otsemobor took over at right back.
But neither side looked too keen on taking the game by the scruff of the neck to take the three points. Both sides lacked a spark of creativity, choosing the lump balls forward in the hope of picking out a target as the ball bobbled hopelessly around in midfield.
Portsmouth had the best chance of the half though with just eight minutes remaining. Great work from Wallace again gave him space on the right to cross. Connolly’s effort was blocked but went directly into the path of Agyemang stood on the line. But such was the tune on the night, his first touch was atrocious and it rolled along the line into the arms of McLoughlin - the offside flag helped spare the striker’s blushes more than a little.
Dons set up camp in the Portsmouth half as the game reached it’s uninspiring end, failing to test Eastwood between the sticks at all in the second 45.
While Dons climb to 13th in the table with the draw, the result was far from the victory they needed to get their campaign up and running again. By Robinson’s own requirements, Dons now need 10 wins from the remaining 14 games if they are to stand any chance of making something of their season.
Referee: K Hill
Attendance: 9,815 (267)
Portsmouth: Eastwood, Walker (Harris 74), Gyepes, Ertl, Racon (Reed 64), Connolly, Agemany, Butler, Rocha, Wallace, Moutaouakil (Webster 64)
Subs not used: Smith, Keene, Akinde
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Lewington, MacKenzie, Kay, Chicksen, Potter, Harley (Lines, 57), Williams (Otsemobor 64), Powell, Chadwick, McLeod (Lowe, 57)
Subs not used: Doumbe, Flanagan, Baldock, Rasulo
Booked: Gyepes, Potter, Wallace