Missed chances go begging in Dons' goal-less draw with Newport

MK Dons match report
MK Dons match report

MK Dons missed a host of gilt-edged chances as they had to settle for a goal-less draw with Newport County on Saturday.

Joe Tomlinson, Alex Gilbey, Conor Grant and Mo Eisa were all left wondering what they had to do to find the net at Rodney Parade, with great opportunities falling their way in the thriller.

The result saw Dons drop to 13th in the table.

Mike Williamson reverted to a team more akin to his previous League Two games after the FA Cup defeat to Reading last week, bringing back the likes of Craig MacGillivray, Joe Tomlinson, Jack Payne and Max Dean to the side to take on Newport County. With Ethan Robson injured, Jonathan Leko kept his place in the side, making his first league start in two months.

Such were the injury concerns at Rodney Parade, County boss Graham Coughlan could only name five substitutes for the game, two of them teenagers with no senior appearances.

Two weeks on the training ground for Williamson meant he was able to begin installing his early visions for his side's style of play, and it looked a lot different to that of previous games this season. More risky play in their own defensive third invited a lot of pressure from Newport's front line, but for the most part, they were able to navigate their way through it. It certainly lifted the home crowd though.

Both sides played at a rapid tempo throughout the first-half, and though goal-scoring opportunities were few, it was an entertaining opening 45 minutes.

Alex Gilbey should have opened the scoring eight minutes in when he was picked out by Joe Tomlinson, but he was unable to turn his effort goalwards, whiel Max Dean did just that with a shot from just inside the box, only to see it saved by keeper Nick Townsend.

At the other end, Leko playing at right wing-back left the flank exposed on several occasions, allowing Newport to exploit that space but both Omar Bogle and Bryn Morris fired wildly off-target when afforded sights of goal.

With referee Ben Atkinson playing some liberal advantages for both, Joe Tomlinson was able to fire into the side netting in stoppage time when Dean hit the deck, as the man in black was booed from the field at the interval by the home support at the break.

Though the first-half swayed from end-to-end, the second-half, and particularly for the final half-an-hour, it was a game Dons were stunned not to have walked away from with the win.

Newport's best chance of the game came six minutes after the restart when keeper Craig MacGillivray's pass out was picked up by Will Evans, but with the keeper out of position, he rushed his effort and fired into the side netting.

From there, it was all Dons, and there were some glorious chances to win it. Joe Tomlinson rounded keeper Nick Townsend but rushed his shot and fired over the open net, before testing the keeper with a right-footed effort from range.

Jack Payne was instrumental once again for the visitors, but it was former Charlton team-mate Gilbey who should have put it away with 15 minutes to go from 10 yards out, only to force another save from Townsend.

The players were left wondering what else they had to do when Conor Grant's strike was brilliantly blocked by Ryan Delaney, and then Tomlinson forced another top stop from the keeper before Mo Eisa, barely on the field a minute was inches away from converting at the death.

Referee: Ben Atkinson

Attendance: 3,777 (345)

Newport County: Townsend, L Payne, Delaney, Evans, Morris, Bogle, Bennett, McLoughlin, Wood (Waite 85), Baker, Bondswell

Subs not used: Maxted, Thomas, Young, Sanca

MK Dons: MacGillivray, O'Hora, Williams, Harvie, Tomlinson, Norman, J Payne, Grant, Gilbey, Leko, Dean (Eisa 87)

Subs not used: Kelly, Lewington, Smith, Burns, Devoy, Dennis

Booked: Bogle, Evans, Norman