MK Dons made it two draws from as many League 1 outings at Swindon Town, in a game marred by a sickening collision between Dons duo Dean Lewington and Mathias Doumbe.
Boss Paul Ince - already without a host of key players through injury - saw his existing problems worsen when his two defenders clashed heads on 41 minutes, leading to a 15-minute delay in the play. And when the game resumed, the men from MK couldn't quite find the finishing touch to gain revenge for their 4-1 Carling Cup defeat to the Robins in midweek.
While Ince may look at the chances his side had to win the game, particularly in the second half, it cannot be argued that a point in the circumstances was a decent return. As well as the injuries to captain Lewington and Doumbe, right-back Danny Woodards hobbled off shortly after half-time, leaving the men from MK with a completely revamped back four and some seriously tired legs elsewhere. And with a list of absentees that currently includes Aaron Wilbraham, Peter Leven, Sean O'Hanlon and Sam Baldock,
Ince's improving side can be hopeful for the stage of the season where they finally find full strength. With something of a point to prove after Tuesday's Carling Cup result, the Dons came out impressively at the start of the game, and were boosted by the return of Lewington and Stephen Gleeson from illness. Lewington immediately showed his readiness for action, setting a superb example for his team-mates in the early exchanges before setting up the first attack with a cleverly chipped ball down the left for Jason Puncheon - the on-loan Plymouth man's cross deflecting twice off Swindon defenders before 'keeper David Lucas recovered.
The visitors continued to make inroads and had a decent shout for a penalty on 11 minutes when frontman Jermaine Easter controlled Luke Chadwick's pass and tumbled in the area under pressure from Sean Morrison. Swindon were finding Puncheon difficult to pick up as he floated in the hole behind the striker and when Lewington's quick free-kick found Puncheon in space centrally, the little magician was just off target with his long-range effort.
Swindon finally started to look the side that had put four past the Dons at stadiummk in midweek halfway through the half and might have been in front had Anthony McNamee kept his volley on target on 25 minutes. Former Don Jon-Paul McGovern looked the most likely to engineer an opening for the home side and it was his 33rd minute corner that saw the climbing Morrison force a fine one-handed save from Dons 'keeper Willy Gueret.
Dons, though, were still shading it and Lucas had to be alert to block a snapshot from Jemal Johnson on 39 minutes and retrieve the loose ball quickly with Easter loitering in his six-yard box. Lewington and Doumbe's collision - which came as a result of both jumping for a ricocheted ball in the air - took the sting out of the Dons' play at the end of a first half which was finally called to a halt after an hour and three minutes.
While Doumbe made it to his feet and was led down the tunnel with a towel pressed firmly to his head, Lewington's situation looked somewhat more complicated - the Dons skipper's head having bounced off the turf as he came down hard. Carried off on a spinal board, the measures were thankfully confirmed as precautionary post-match following Lewington's discharge from hospital with a mild concussion and 12 stitches.
But as the travelling Dons fans chanted "Win it for Lewie", the Dons set about doing just that in the second half. Luke Howell probably came closest just two minutes after the restart, climbing brilliantly to meet Johnson's free-kick from the left and force a superb one-handed save from Lucas. Woodards' withdrawal on 56 minutes meant Ince would have to further reshuffle his defence, but the action was positive with a debut handed to striker Jabo Ibehre.
Dons continued to be the aggressors in the second half, Puncheon whistling a free-kick just over the bar on 62 before Easter came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock on 74 minutes. Having switched to right-back following Woodards' departure, Howell bombed on and provided a gorgeously-tempting ball into the box that and airborne Easter - seemingly freed by the arrival of Ibehre - just failed to connect with.
Swindon briefly flirted with the concept of snatching a winner of their own when McGovern's volley was headed off the line by Dons substitute Sol Davis, but it would be the visitors who would again go close before the end. Easter showed terrific touch to hold onto a firm pass from Chadwick and spin in the box, only for Lucas to foil him with a push around the post.
Swindon Town (4-3-2-1): Lucas; Amankwaah, Morrison, Greer (c), Jean-Francois; McGovern, Douglas, Timlin (O'Briend 65); Macklin (Obadeyi 53), McNamee; Paynter.
Subs not used: Smith, Cuthbert, Easton, Kennedy, Thompson.
MK Dons (4-4-1-1): Gueret; Woodards (Ibehre 56), Doumbe (Powell 45+10), McCracken, Lewington (Davis 45+10); Chadwick, Howell, Gleeson, Johnson; Puncheon; Easter.
Subs not used: Searle, Partridge, Carrington, Bridges.
Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey)