It was an opening day stalemate for MK Dons as they drew 0-0 with Shrewsbury.
The Greenhaus Meadow crowd would’ve expected a much more lively opening 45 minutes to the football season, but were left disappointed as neither side looked too enthralled with the prospect of another long season.
But the second half was a far more thrilling affair with chances at both ends, though both managers could thank their goalkeepers for keeping things level.
After Patrick Bamford picked up a knock in training during the week, the man Karl Robinson has pinned his goal-scoring hopes on could only make the substitute’s bench for the opening game of the season. Alan Smith took over the front man duties, while there were full debuts for Lee Hodson and Jason Banton.
It was a comfortable opening 15 minutes for the visitors. Shrewsbury barely got a touch of the ball as Shaun Williams and Antony Kay played neat passes amongst each other, though the out-ball to Smith was being caught up in the swirling wind whipping around Greenhaus Meadow.
But for all their possession, the first chance fell the way of Shrewsbury as Jon Taylor bent in a high ball, but Dean Lewington just beat Tom Bradshaw to it at the far post, picking up a knock in the process.
Dons’ attacking quartet of Smith, Chadwick, Alli and Banton looked dangerous in parts, but the final ball was lacking all too often and loose first touches were costing them in good positions. But Alli could have netted the opener after 25 minutes and embarrassed Shrews keeper Chris Weale in the process as the stopper dawdled on the ball, giving the teenager enough time to get a touch on his attempted clearance. Fortunately for Weale though, it bounced just out of Alli’s reach and he was able to clear properly at the second attempt.
Neither side seemed particularly enthused that the season was up and running once more, as the slow tempo and lack of attacking prowess hardly made for an entertaining encounter. For Shrewsbury, Bradshaw’s hopeless touch summed up things for his side after he shrugged off Kay’s attention in the box only to waste the opportunity out for a goal kick. And Kay came closest for Dons on the stroke of half time, but his 35 yard strike sailed high over the top of the bar, never troubling Weale.
The start to the second half was far more lively - in fact the opening two minutes saw more action than 45 in the first. Initially, Banton almost picked out Stephen Gleeson on the penalty spot, but his ball was intercepted. Straight up the other end, Shrewsbury forced Kay into conceding a corner before Paul Parry sent a free kick just over the top after Lewington was adjudged to have handled just outside the box.
The game tooed and froed as both sides played with a bit more urgency. Patrick Bamford was introduced after seven minutes of the second half, replacing the ineffective Banton, and went up into the middle alongside Smith.
But it took 55 minutes to get the first strike on target - a firmly struck Parry volley after John Marsden’s nod down was straight down Martin’s throat and never troubling the keeper.
He needed to be at his best five minutes later though as Marsden again caused havoc in the area, turning three defenders before firing across the keeper. But Martin did brilliantly to get down to his left, getting a big hand on the ball to keep it out.
Neither side really forced the issue from there though, but the fierce battle in midfield was an entertaining one. The injection of pace added with Izale McLeod replacing Smith was pulling the Shrewsbury defence about, and it helped create Dons’ best chance with 15 minutes to go as Alli and Bamford combined only for the latter to hit just over the top.
But at the other end, Martin pulled off an incredible save, not that he knew much about it, when Taylor swung in another from the left, picking out Aaron Wildig, who couldn’t have been more than three yards out. His strike, luckily, was straight at the Dons keeper who took the full brunt of it in the stomach but incredibly kept it out.
Back up the other end, Weale got just enough on substitute George Baldock’s 12-yard strike to tip it over the top.
So a goalless draw to get the season underway wouldn’t have been exactly what the travelling fans would have wanted to go back down the motorway with, though arguably, but for David Martin, it could have been a fruitless trip.
Referee: Gary Sutton
Attendance: 5144 (458)
Shrewsbury: Weale, Jacobson, Summerfield, Jones (Goldson 84), Bradshaw, Taylor, Marsden (McAllister 77), Wildig, Mkandawire, Parry (McQuade 88), Tavernier
Suba not used: Anyon, Woods, Smith, Anderson
MKDons: Martin, Lewington, Hodson, Williams, Kay, Potter, Gleeson, Chadwick (Baldock 78), Alli, Banton (Bamford 53), Smith (McLeod 68)
Subs not used: Ostemobor, Flanagan, Reeves, McLoughlin