DONS played out an uneventful 0-0 draw with Kettering as their pre-season campaign on home soil got underway at Nene Park.
The home side had the best chances of the first half but blazed their shots over the bar, but Dons looked comfortable, with their overall quality easily capable of controlling the young Kettering side. Jabo Ibehre hit the post as Dons turned the screw late in the game, but manager Karl Robinson won’t be too disgruntled with the lack of goals from the game.
He named a fairly full-strength starting 11, but was weary of the conditions – the Nene Park pitch resembled a field more than it did a football pitch and the bobbles took some getting used to for the visiting side in the opening minutes.
But it wasn’t the conditions that forced Kettering’s first chance five minutes in, but instead referee Carl Henry. Darren Potter appeared to be pulled back by Warren Byerley in the penalty area but playing on, the ball came out to Jordan Patrick unmarked on the left. With plenty of time, he picked out Omar Beckles but the midfielder couldn’t keep his shot down as it sailed over the bar.
Dons began to settle though and created two great chances to take the lead, one through Daniel Powell and the other through Stephen Gleeson, but both put them well over the crossbar. Powell forced a good save from Poppies keeper Laurie Walker, but on the whole, neither keeper was really tested in the opening half hour as a scrappy midfield battle ensued.
The visitors looked comfortable though, hardly troubled by their Southern League Premier Division opposition, as they began to turn on the pressure and style. Powell forced two more great saves from Walker as the Town defence failed to deal with the three-man Dons strike force, who were ably supported by both Gleeson and Williams.
But Kettering had the best chance of the half on the stroke of half time when Gary MacKenzie dawdled on the ball in the area and was robbed by Patrick. He toe-poked a shot on goal which was powerfully palmed away by Martin though the rebound fell to Shaun Bennett-Johnson. However, with the whole goal to aim at, Bennett-Johnson blazed the ball over the bar – a huge let off for Dons as the whistle went for the break.
Kettering made 11 changes to their team at the interval, while Robinson persisted with his original starting line-up for the start of the second half.
Dons continued in the same fashion they ended the first period, very much on the front foot. Bowditch and Williams fired in early efforts at new goalkeeper Steve Mothorpe, neither could direct their shots though.
Robinson made six changes just short of the hour mark, introducing Jordan Ivey-Ward, Adam Chicksen, Luke Chadwick, Charlie Collins, Deon Burton and Jabo Ibehre to the fray.
Burton’s impact was almost immediate as he jumped to get on the end of Powell’s deep cross from the left, but it appeared he was pushed while in the air by giant centre-back Jordan Anderson.
Thriving in his new midfield role, Williams nearly opened the scoring with an outrageous shot from just inside the Kettering half. Spotting keeper Mothorpe off his line, his shot dropped just wide of the upright.
The young Kettering side were putting up a terrific fight against their vastly more experienced opposition but it was all one-way traffic. Deon Burton had a great chance to open the scoring with 17 minutes remaining when he managed to get a foot to Powell’s deep cross, but he could only play it across the line, allowing Mothorpe to scramble back to make the save.
With half chances falling to almost all of the Dons midfield at some point during the latter part of the half, the best chance fell to Ibehre. Chadwick’s weaving run got him to the byline and he cut back to the big striker, but his shot came back off the post and was hoisted away to safety.
Ibehre came close again when Chadwick’s quickly taken freekick caught the Poppies defence napping, but his header was well saved by Mothorpe at the near post.
While it wasn’t a thrilling encounter by any stretch, it was an important game in the sense that for some of the players, this was the first full 90 minutes under the belts ahead of the new season. Shaun Williams controlled the second half, taking over from Potter in the anchor role.
Ultimately, the 0-0 scoreline will act as nothing more than a glorified training game ahead of Friday’s clash with Norwich City at stadium:mk.
Referee: Carl Henry
Kettering (first 45 mins): GK Laurie Walker, Ed Palmer, Oscar Radford, Ben Gerring, Nathan Mukuna, Ryan Hervel, Omar Beckles, Shaun Bennett Johnson, Jamie Griffiths, Warren Byerley, Jordan Patrick
MK Dons: Martin, Doumbe, MacKenzie (Ivey-Ward 58), Flanagan, Lewington (Chicksen 58), Gleeson (Chadwick 58), Potter (Collins 58), Williams, Powell, Bowditch (Burton 58), MacDonald (Ibehre 58)
Booked: Ed Palmer