THE magic of the FA Cup certainly didn’t grace the field at Hillsborough on Saturday as MK Dons and Sheffield Wednesday played out a turgid 0-0 draw to take the third round tie back to stadium:mk for a replay.
It won’t go down as an FA Cup classic by any stretch of the imagination. Neither side looked especially dangerous at any point during the game, though it was the League 1 side that had the better of the chances in the final 10 minutes to warrant the ‘we deserved it more’ moniker – and that was purely down to Shaun Williams striking the upright after a neat lay-off from Ryan Lowe.
Without the likes of Stephen Gleeson, Dean Bowditch, Luke Chadwick and Izale McLeod to pick from, Karl Robinson named as strong a team as he could, but could only include five substitutes. Both Charlie MacDonald and Jabo Ibehre were noticeable by the absence from the line-up though.
As expected, it was all Wednesday in the opening 10 minutes. Mamady Sidibe looked a handful up front but couldn’t direct his early header as it sailed by, and Kieran Lee should have done better from the edge of the six yard box but missed the ball entirely as he looked to shoot.
But after riding out the early storm, Dons settled into a comfortable passage of play, managing to keep hold of the ball particularly well in midfield. Ryan Harley and former Wednesday player Darren Potter were working well in the centre, and Adam Chicksen saw a lot of the ball in the first half hour out on the left.
But chances were at a premium – another former Wednesday man Ryan Lowe almost capitalised on Martin Taylor’s slip in the box, but keeper Stephen Bywater was quick to jump on the ball. Lowe had half-hearted penalty appeals turned away as he claimed to be pulled down by the keeper in the process.
There were some nervy faces on the Dons bench when Antony Kay clashed heads with Chris Maguire 10 minutes before the break. Kay needed treatment on the field and the blood shirt as he bled from the nose, but the hardened defender was able to carry on, albeit with nostrils plugged.
Wednesday continued to look the more dangerous going forward, winning a series of corners just before the break and generally keeping Dons firmly under control in the opposite third. But they, like their visitors, barely created anything of real concern as the sides coasted in at half time.
The second half continued in the same vain as the first. Neither side were playing badly as such, but to matched were they that possession changed hands quickly and regularly and didn’t allow either to get on top.
One thing the home side had increasingly against them though was the support of their own fans. The Hillsborough faithful were growing ever more frustrated by Wednesday’s lack of penetration in the final third, while Dons seemed content to wind them up further by playing most of their football between the back four in their own half.
They were somewhat appeased when Dave Jones threw Gary Medine and Jermaine Johnson into the mix for Wednesday. For Dons, Robinson replaced the under-used Ismail and Alan Smith, who’d had a fairly productive time in midfield, with Dele Alli and Gary MacKenzie.
Those changes brought about Dons’ best move of the game with 17 minutes to go. Alli broke up the right, picked out Lowe on the edge of the box, who in turn teed up Potter to shoot. His shot was well blocked by the Wednesday defence, but it fell nicely for Harley 20 yards out, but another deflection took it just wide of the mark.
As the clock counted down, Dons continued to keep the pressure on their Championship opponents, First, a great move between Lewington and Harley saw the on-loan man through on goal, but Bywater just did enough to loop his shot over the top. Then, as Wednesday failed to clear the corner, Williams tried his arm from range, but another deflection took it just wide of the far upright.
Two minutes later, it was Williams again was picked out by Lowe in space on the edge of the D, and his low drive beat Bywater, but not the post as it bounced off the base of the woodwork.
Teenage striker Giorgio Rasulo was given three minutes at the end as he replaced Ryan Lowe – the former Wednesday man given the biggest applause of the game as he made his way off, appreciated by both home and away supporters alike.
A replay back at stadium:mk won’t have been high up either managers’ wish list at kick off, but at least they’re still in the hat for the next round.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Sheffield Wednesday: Bywater, Buxton, Taylor, Antonio, Maguire (Johnson, 67), Mattock, McCabe (Semedo 86), Lee, Sidibe (Madine, 55, Prutton, Llera
Subs not used: Davies, Johnson, O’Grady, Corry
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Doumbe, Kay, Williams, Potter, Smith (MacKenzie 70), Harley, Ismail (Alli, 66), Lowe (Rasulo 90)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Galloway