Dons battered and probed for the entirety of their game with Coventry City on Saturday, but couldn’t find a way through the stubborn defence in the 0-0 stalemate.
The visitors, who celebrated the recent news that they would soon return to the Ricoh Arena, were under pressure from the very first minute, but Dons failed to strike the killer blow. Dean Bowditch, Daniel Powell and Ben Reeves all had glorious chances to settle it for the home side, but it wasn’t to be.
There were a number of talking points in the Dons side when the teams were announced. Neither David Martin nor Lee Hodson were fit to take the field after picking up knocks against Chesterfield on Tuesday night, and were replaced by Ian McLoughlin and George Baldock respectively. Benik Afobe scored the winner against the Spireites, but couldn’t keep his place in the side, as he was replaced up front by Will Grigg, while there were places on the bench for Samir Carruthers, who nears a return from injury, and Jordan Spence who signed for the club on Thursday evening.
Dons started the match line a house on fire, and pegged back the visitors into their own half. Barely 20 seconds had passed before Dons won a free kick on the edge of the box, which Ben Reeves could only comfortably loft to City keeper Ryan Allsop.
Daniel Powell looked particularly dangerous on the left flank, and twice beat Jordan Willis to the byline to whip across tempting balls, forcing Reda Johnson across in front of Grigg to make a vital clearance.
Both Bowditch and Reeves came close to opening the scoring, but both saw their shots from the edge of the box skim just wide of the upright.
Bowditch was proving to be the key man for Dons, particularly in the first half, though he was a victim of his own honesty when Dons should have been awarded a penalty after 25 minutes. Slid in brilliantly by Dele Alli, Bowditch was clipped by Ryan Haynes in the area, but rather than go down, opted to stay on his feet. Off balance, his strike was saved by Allsop, and the follow-up effort headed off the line by the retreating Johnson.
Alli’s influence on the game was growing more and more as the half wore on, and his quick feet were causing havoc for the Coventry defence. He had two shots well blocked, but his eye for a pass saw him pick out Reeves’ run with a back heel, but last season’s Player of the Year should have done better one-on-one with Allsop, firing low into his chest.
For all their dominance in the half though, Dons didn’t go in at the break ahead, as their play deserved.
It was more of the same in the second half. The introduction of Samir Carruthers to the action on the hour mark lifted the spirits of the home fans, replacing Bowditch.
Grigg, who had been fairly quiet all afternoon, could have done better when Reeves’ shot from the edge of the box was spilled by Allsop. The striker was caught on his heels a little, and couldn’t quite get enough of a toe on it to break it free from the keeper’s second attempt. And he played a key role another great chance for the home side - out-muscling Johnson to pull back for Powell, who spun brilliantly only to fire over the top. It’s be Grigg’s last involvement as he was replaced by Benik Afobe.
Try as Dons did though, that goal simply wasn’t going to come. Potter tried an audacious chip when he spotted Allsop just off his line which floated just wide, before Reeves headed inches over from Baldock’s peach of a cross.
Time though, rather than Coventry, would be Dons’ biggest enemy in the closing stages as they simply ran out of it in the search for what would ultimately be the decisive goal.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake
Attendance: 10,600 (3,601)
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Lewington, Baldock Kay, McFadzean, Potter, Alli, Powell, Bowditch (Carruthers 60), Reeves (Hitchcock 80), Grigg (Afobe 69)
Subs not used: Burns, Flanagan, Spence, Randall, Hitchcock
Coventry: Allsop, Willis, Webster, Johnson, Fleck, McQuoid (Miller 62), Swanson (Thomas 45), O’Brien, Tudgay (Jackson 71), Clarke, Haynes
Subs not used: Burge, Coulibaly, Phillips, Finch
Booked: Bowditch, Fleck, Alli