It was billed as a top of the league clash, and it certainly didn’t disappoint as MK Dons and Bristol City thrashed out an enthralling 0-0 draw at stadium:mk.
The stakes couldn’t have been much higher for either side, but neither left anything in their lockers as the game ebbed and flowed from end to end, with clear-cut chances few and far between.
Bristol City had the best chance of the opening half, forcing David Martin into a fine double-stop, while Dons shaded it in the second, with the £5 million teenager Dele Alli sending one narrowly wide of the upriught at the death.
There was only one change made to the Dons side which won so convincingly at Crewe Alexandra a week prior, with Devante Cole dropping to the substitutes bench despite scoring twice. Will Grigg came in to replace him, with Dean Bowditch switching out to the left flank.
With little to separate the sides after 20-odd games so far this season, the opening half an hour played out in a similar fashion. Dons were the ones doing most of the leg work, and had the lionshare of possession in Bristol terratory. But the side who started the day top of the pile looked more than comfortable to absorb the pressure, smothering Dons on the edge of the box and limiting their chances to range efforts from outside 18.
When City did have the chance to surge forwards, it was with purpose. Luke Freeman was their outlet at every opportunity as he made things tick for the visitors, though his bag of tricks was more for style than substance in the opening 45 minutes.
City did have the best chance of the half 12 minutes before the interval though, with Jay Emmanual-Thomas driving a low chance down low to David Martin’s right, which he could only palm as far as on-rusing Joe Bryan. Martin was quickly to his feet though, getting something on the follow-up effort to keep the visitors at bay.
One blot on the copybook for Dons though was Dean Bowditch, who hobbled down the tunnel. He was replaced by the lively Samir Carruthers, keen to make a positive impression.
It was a case of ‘more of the same’ in the second half. City’s attacks continued to look sharp though infrequent, while Dons spent more of their time on the front foot, but lacked a killer instinct.
Even the introduction of two members of Dons’ double-winning class of 2008 couldn’t break the deadlock, as Keith Andrews made his Dons return replacing Daniel Powell, while Aaron Wilbraham came on for Bristol City for the ineffective Matt Smith.
Dons were denied a stonewall penalty with six minutes on the clock to go though, when Luke Ayling, who was already on a booking, threw himself into the way of Carruthers’ strike, but arms first. Referee Craig Pawson though turned away the appeals though, even booking Carruthers for the nature of his protestations.
There was still time though for the man of the moment to have his say though, but the stars didn’t totally allign for Dele Alli as his shot from the edge of the box whistled just wide, with Fielding at full stretch and beaten.
The draw, combined with Swindon’s 2-0 win at home to Barnsely, means Dons slip to third in League 1, two points from top spot.
Referee: Craig Pawson
MK Dons: Martin, Spence, McFadzean, Kay, Lewington, Potter, Alli, Powell (Andrews 71), Baker, Bowditch (Carruthers 32), Grigg (Cole 88)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Hodson, Green, Clarke-Harris
Bristol City: Fielding, Little, Bryan, Ayling, Flint, Williams, K.Smith, Elliott, Freeman, M.Smith (Wilbraham 73), Emmauel-Thomas (Agard 90)
Subs not used: Richards, Cunningham, Saville, Pack, Wagstaff
Booked: McFadzean, Ayling, Carruthers