KARL Robinson was left dumbfounded after Shane Duffy brought down Jabo Ibehre in the penalty area, only to see play waved on in Dons’ 0-0 draw with Scunthorpe on Saturday.
In a game which saw few chances created for either side, the decision not to award a spot kick proved to be the biggest talking point in a game that rightfully ended with honours even.
But while Robinson agreed that a point from the game was probably fair, he questioned how the assistant referee missed the incident.
Robinson said: “Jabo has pinged it round him, then had his legs taken from under him. It’s a blatant penalty.
“The assistant refereed our reserve team game against QPR in midweek. He gave penalties that were laughable – yet he didn’t see that.
“How can he give penalties in one game, and then not give them three days later? I don’t understand how that is neutral and fair.
“Many times I’ve said we should have deserved more out of the game, but it wasn’t the case today. It was a game which was frustrating.
“They’re a good team, Scunthorpe. People look at the league and think it should have been a roll-over here. But they have a number of Championship players there.
“But we haven’t been beaten again, which is pleasing. It wasn’t great, but the effort is there. It was a huff and puff sort of game, and we both cancelled out each others qualities.”
Dean Bowditch made way for Ibehre at half-time and saw Dons switch to a more direct style of play and resulted in a more open affair in the second half.
But despite more possession and territory, Dons found it hard to break Scunthorpe’s final line of defence for the all important goal.
“I made a change because I felt we needed to go long at times and allow our midfield to play,” Robinson said.
“When it’s a stale game, and your footballers aren’t having their day, you have to revert to the power and pace. Jabo and Daniel Powell gave us that. In years gone by, we’d have lost the game here, but we were strong.
“I thought we were better and created more in the second half. But our players gave everything. They came off tired and disappointed, but a point was fair.”
A victory would have lifted Dons as high as fourth in League 1, but fortunately results around them were favourable, meaning they keep well in contention with the play-off pack ahead of Tuesday’s vital clash with Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
The game started on a sombre note with a minute of applause for racing driver Dan Wheldon from Emberton, who was killed last Sunday.
The opening 15 minutes flew by, but little was created in front of goal and neither keeper was really called into action.
Darren Potter was pulling the strings for Dons in midfield, while Bowditch and Angelo Balanta were getting into promising areas, but couldn’t deliver the final ball for Clinton Morrison to latch on to.
Morrison, making his final appearance for Dons at the end of his month-long loan from Sheffield Wednesday, was struggling to make an impact on his own up front and was narrowly adjudged to be offside when he raced clear.
Scunthorpe weren’t without their own chances though, forcing David Martin into a number of good stops, though the keeper never really looked in trouble.
Mark Beevers twice could have opened the scoring for Dons with chances at both ends. First, he rose highest to reach a Balanta cross, but his header came back off the crossbar, agonisingly out of reach of Morrison’s outstretched right boot as he threw himself towards the rebound.
At the other end Beevers was lucky not to put into his own net when he deflected a cross out of play, narrowly missing the upright, with Martin wrong-footed.
Dons looked to have the upper hand as they attacked the Cowshed in the second half, but they didn’t make Sam Slocombe, making his league debut in the Scunny goal, work in the opening 15 minutes of the half.
Meanwhile at the other end, Martin was forced into a couple of saves from Bobby Grant, though both shots were straight at him.
The home side began to turn the screw on their opponents, allowing them less and less time in their half and on the ball as they went forward. With Ibehre as the target man, Dons were launching high balls into the box, inviting Darren Potter and Stephen Gleeson more freedom to come forward and join in with the attacks.
But the key incident came when Duffy appeared to bring Ibehre down in the area, with neither the referee nor his assistant seeing anything wrong with the challenge, leaving Robinson incensed on the touchline.
The lively Balanta was replaced by Powell with 20 minutes remaining – Robinson perhaps keeping half an eye on the huge match with Sheffield United.
And the two substitutes combined to create the best chance of the game – Ibehre nodded wide to Powell, who had raced past his man, to go through on goal, but a last ditch slide from Sam Togwell deflected his shot past the post.
Robinson made his final roll of the dice with five minutes to go, replacing Morrison with Charlie MacDonald. Morrison received a standing ovation as he left the pitch for the last time.
Dons continued to throw everything at Scunthorpe, knowing that the only goal of the game would likely be the winner. Though but for a handful of half-chances, Dons were unable to break the deadlock and had to settle for a draw.
Gary MacKenzie said after the game that he and his team-mates were disappointed not to come away with more from a game made tough by Scunthorpe’s tactics.
“They were organised and made our job very difficult,” he said. “Particularly in the first half, I don’t think we penetrated their lines enough.
“I had a few words at half time, telling people to play in their half and pick up on second balls and I think we created a few more chances. But they had chances too, it was an open game. So 0-0 was probably fair, but we’re still disappointed.
“They came here and stopped us playing. We didn’t really have any answers for that in the first half. We tried to keep possession to open them up, but they just made it very difficult.”