DONS lost further ground on the leaders as they had to settle for a goalless draw against Bury on Saturday.
The visitors could argue that they should have been awarded three penalties in the match, but neither side will have felt hard done by in a thrilling 0-0 at Gigg Lane.
Daniel Powell, Dean Bowditch and Jabo Ibehre all came close for Dons, while Andy Bishop missed a one-on-one late in the last minute as both sides had chances to seal victory.
Morning signing Clinton Morrison started life at MK Dons on the bench after signing on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, while Tom Flanagan and Adam Chicksen kept their places in the side from Tuesday night, with Gary MacKenzie serving the second of his three match suspension and Adam Smith still out injured.
Both sides got off to a fast start. Dons played their usual possession game, with quick popping passes, while Bury were keen on sending balls in behind Flanagan and Williams for Harrad to chase.
Karl Robinson has been lamenting refereeing decisions going against his side, and it looked like his men were hard done by again 10 minutes in when Daniel Powell played a quick give-and-go with Jabo Ibehre before he was barged to the ground by Efe Sodje – but despite being nearly a yard into the penalty area, referee David Coote gave a freekick outside the box.
Despite their league position, Bury were playing some neat football in the midfield as they out-numbered Dons in the centre of the park. David Worrall was proving to be their main outlet on the right hand side as he looked to make his pace count against Lewington. For Dons, Ibehre and Powell were stuttering up front, with loose touches letting them down in the final third.
The away side had a great chance to take the lead though after 26 minutes when a quick interchange between the front two saw Dons three-on-two through on goal, but Ibehre dragged his shot wide, when he had Bowditch and Powell in support and in better positions to score.
A minute later, Powell forced Trevor Carson into the first save of the game with his low shot which the Shakers stopper kept out with his legs as Dons began putting the pressure on.
Powell stung the palms of Carson and Potter fired a freekick in a promising position into the wall as Dons searched for the opener and a boost going in at the break.
And they put together their best move of the half five minutes before the interval, when Gleeson’s long ball found Bowditch on the edge of the area with pinpoint accuracy, and his neat first time touch to Ibehre put the big man through on goal, but he blasted the ball wide over the bar when a placed effort would have been better.
Dons were flowing forward, and were desperately unlucky not to be in front when Bowditch cut inside his man from the left and bent a right-footed effort goalwards but couldn’t beat Carson at full stretch as the sides went in level.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first, with both sides fancying their chances in the early stages, though it was Dons who looked the more likely to nick the opener.
Dons argued they should have had a second penalty when Bowditch’s cross was blocked by a Bury hand early in the half but referee Coote was having none of the protests and waved play on.
But with opportunities proving rare in front of goal, Powell was replaced by Clinton Morrison just before the hour mark, while Chadwick was exchanged for Angelo Balanta in a double substitution from Robinson.
Bury offered little going forward in the second period, but forced Martin into making his first save of the game in the 62nd minute when Efe Sodje was left unmarked at the far post and connected well with deep corner, but the Dons keeper got down well.
Morrison added a new flair for Dons up front, and had a hand in creating a goalmouth scramble which the away side really should have done better with, but Ibehre’s toe poke wasn’t quite strong enough to make it past the Bury keeper. He came close again two minutes later when he headed Bowditch’s freekick just wide of the post – Dons guilty once again of wasting too many chances in front of goal.
Former Dons loanee David Amoo was introduced to the Bury side with 16 minutes to go and really lifted the crowd for the first time in the match and it was his clever build up that allowed Andy Bishop to try an audacious acrobatic back heel, but Martin was wise to it and tipped over the bar.
Dons were incredibly denied a third penalty with 9 minutes remaining when Williams’ initial freekick was blocked, and the defender had another bite of the cherry but it appeared that Ashley Eastham stopped the follow-up with his fists rather than his chest.
Bury had the best chance of the game to wrap up the result as the clock ticked over to 90 minutes when Amoo raced at the Dons defence before slipping Bishop through, but Martin did well to stand his ground, blocking Bishop’s shot brilliantly.
At the other end, Morrison came desperately close to stealing it for Dons as his touch nearly beat Carson, but the keeper got the deftest of touches on it to put the ball wide of the post.
But it wasn’t to be for either side as the referee called time on the enthralling affair. The result means though that Dons are now four without a win with a massively important game on Tuesday night against league leaders Charlton Athletic at stadium:mk.
Referee: David Coote
Attendance: 2,378 (172 away)
Bury: Carson, Picken, Skarz, Sweeney, Worrall, M Jones (Amoo, 74), Coke, Sodje, Eastham, Byrne, Harrad (Bishop, 67)
Subs not used: Belford, Cregg, A Jones
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Chicksen, Williams, Flanagan, Gleeson, Potter, Chadwick (Balanta, 58), Powell (Morrison, 58), Bowditch, Ibehre (McNamee, 73)
Subs not used: Beevers, McLoughlin