Basement battle flatters to deceive
With both sides fighting at the wrong end of the Championship table, Tuesday night's match between MK Dons and Charlton at The Valley should have been a rip-roaring encounter - instead, it reflected exactly why both sides are struggling.
A goal-less draw, on reflection, was exactly what the match deserved.
While Dons struggled to create themselves clear-cut chances, such has been their problem all season, Charlton were masters of their own downfall and did Dons’ defensive job for them.
Some 0-0 draws are thrilling and all-encompassing, featuring everything but a goal.
But Tuesday’s encounter, while it did almost have everything, wasn’t up to par.
Without the ever-growing figurehead of Alex Revell up front, Dons didn’t have a viable outlet.
Nicky Maynard looked a yard off the pace as balls were played up to him to hold up, but he was up against three Charlton defenders who just about had the edge over him, even if they did look desperate to give the ball back at every turn.
Maynard did have a chance inside the opening five minutes, but squandered it by hitting a tame effort to Nick Pope’s near post. It would be a difficult evening for the 28-year-old.
The first half had a nice flow to it though. Dons’ passing game was causing Charlton problems in midfield, with Darren Potter in particular a stand-out performer, both with the ball at his feet and when winning it back.
Charlton’s rare saunters forward were often undone by their own ambition. Capitalising by catching Dons on the break, their final ball showed exactly why they are 23rd.
Fast moves had the brakes slammed on with passes behind the man, or hopelessly over hit crosses gifted Dons the ball back. On the rare occasion the outstanding Dean Lewington was beaten down his flank, the threat was short-lived.
It was a physical affair too. Jonny Williams was dispatched into the sponsor boards with no remorse, substitute Rob Hall - Williams’ replacement - was also introduced to the ground in uncompromising fashion.
As the home fans grew ever-more restless over Jose Riga’s tactics, they reached boiling point when Simon Makienok was left on, while the dangerous Callum Harriot was withdrawn for striker Yaya Sanogo - he’d have his moment late in the day though.
Maynard’s fruitless night would end with 21 minutes to go, replaced by new fans favourite Revell, while Ben Reeves and Rob Hall also came on to add some new life to Dons’ front line.
But while the action on the pitch wasn’t amounting to much, the atmosphere made it a far more tense occasion than the game deserved.
Charlton, now aiming at the in-form Sanogo while over hitting their crosses, were lifted as The Valley hopefuls roared them on, but attempts on goal were scant.
At the other end, Reeves and Hall both had range finders but didn’t trouble Pope between the sticks.
The best chance of the night though would fall to Samir Carruthers.
Lifted through on goal in another moment of Potter excellence, a rush of blood to the head saw him clip the ball high into the stands, opting for an elaborate flick rather than a head-down, blast into the bottom corner.
The fiery affair ended on a sour note though. As Sanogo and Kay tussled for a free kick in the final minute, the on-loan Arsenal man threw an elbow, flooring the Dons defender, who, after realigning his jaw, leapt up baying for blood.
Fortunately, the referee had already flashed the claret at Sanogo, drawing a line under a thoroughly forgettable evening for both sides, only brought to life by Robinson’s comments afterwards (see back page.)