MK Dons had to settle for a point as they came from a goal-down to draw 1-1 with Portsmouth on Tuesday evening.
Portsmouth burst out of the blocks at Fratton Park and were duly rewarded when David Connolly’s superb header fired the hosts into a 22nd minute lead. The Dons, though, recovered and an excellent strike by Shaun Williams pulled them back into proceedings just five minutes later.
Former Pompey striker Izale McLeod had the chances to ultimately earn the Dons all three points, but he had anything but a dream return to his old hunting ground. In truth a point a piece, despite the Dons dominating the second half, was a true reflection on a game that was stretched but lacked real quality.
The point ensured the Dons climb up the table into 13th place as they head into the final two months of the season.
There were three changes to the Dons side which drew at Carlisle United three days earlier with Ian McLoughlin starting in goal in place of the injured David Martin, Izale McLeod was handed a starting berth against his former club while Daniel Powell also returned to the side.
Both sides heading into the game in difficult form, although the Dons’ mid-table position was a significantly more comfortable situation compared to relegation-threatened Portsmouth who, still remain in administration, were seeking their first three points since the mid-October.
There was plenty of reason for both teams to be positive in the early stages as an open match unfolded in the first 10 minutes. The forward threat of Pompey could not be underestimated as their surged forward in numbers, causing Gary MacKenzie some early issues as he was turned inside out at the edge of the box, as a result it was left to Antony Kay to clear a cross which was intended for Patrick Agyemang.
At the other end, a break from Luke Chadwick created the first real opening for the Dons as he found his way into the box only to turn his shot over the bar.
A few nerves appeared to be getting the better of ‘keeper McLoughlin, who was starting his first League game for the Dons, as some unsettled kicking played into the hand of the hosts but fortunately Robinson’s side stayed strong at the back.
McLoughlin, though, looking to grow into the game then fed the ball out from the back and quickly McLeod was brought into the play. The striker opted to drive a low effort from distance, but it fell wide of the right post and brought cheers from the fans who once sung his name.
The pressure from Pompey continued to be pilled on as a corner failed to be dealt with by the Dons and fell straight into the path of Agyemang who tried to stab the ball home from six-yards. In the melee the Dons managed to clear the ball as far as Jed Wallace whose tame effort fell into the palms of McLoughlin.
A shaky Dons though were beaten when an excellent free-kick from Wallace found a crack in the defence, at which point the fine movement of Connolly allowed him to get across the wall and loop a his header beyond McLoughlin.
The momentum was firmly in Pompey’s favour yet when Wallace sent another long-range effort goal-bound it failed to trouble the Dons’ keeper.
However, five minutes after falling behind the Dons were able to silence their hosts when McLeod’s nod down on the edge of the box fell at the feet of Williams, who grabbed the game by the scuff of the neck as he turned on the spot and sent a fire-cracker of a right-footed strike into the top corner.
Soon after Williams could have handed the Dons the lead with a free-kick from the right but his delivery fell kindly into Simon Eastwood’s arms.
Pompey’s continuous pressing stopped the Dons from playing their usual patient build-up play and forced a series of errors, yet the hosts could not capitalise in the periods in which the pinned their visitors back.
Following the half-time interval the Dons burst out of the blocks, keen to impose their style on Portsmouth and find a goal to take them in front. A blocked Ryan Harley free-kick fell kindly to McLeod in the left of the box, but his shot was a moment to forget as he blasted wildly into the stand.
The striker had another golden opportunity in the 52nd minute when the hard work of Daniel Powell down the right carved open the Portsmouth defence and McLeod, unmarked at the near post, failed to get his head on a fine cross from the winger. It was a gilt-edged chance for Robinson’s side and one that could have turned the game on its head.
A tough evening for McLeod, desperately trying to impress against his old side with little luck, saw him replaced before the hour-mark approached by Ryan Lowe and Harley also made way for Chris Lines.
Since the interval the game had been stretched but it was the Dons who had been on the front foot with nothing to show for it.
McLoughlin had been kept relatively untested in the second half, but when a run by Wallace hinted at danger the young goalkeeper made a bold decision to race off his line and force the ball from the feet of the Pompey winger.
A host of substitutions stopped any momentum that threatened to gather in the match and a lack of quality in passing and in the final third on the night was highlighted in both sides.
The Dons’ more influential players failed to shine at Fratton Park, which further added to their difficulties. When Connolly broke on the counter-attack Pompey had a wave of support, fortunately as MacKenzie tried to recover and disrupted the shot of Adam Reed and Agyemang, stood on the post, was unable to tap-in as he held an off-side position.
The draw in the end summed up a game in which Portsmouth shone in the first half and the Dons in the second.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): Eastwood; Moutaouakil (Webster 65), Rocha, Gyepes, Butler; Wallace, Ertl (c), Racon (Reed 65), Walker (Harris 74); Agyemang, Connolly
Subs not used: Smith (GK), Keene, Akinde.
Booked: Gyepes, Wallace, Ertl
Goal: Connolly 22
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Chicksen, MacKenzie, Kay, Lewington (c); Potter, Williams (Otsemobor 65); Powell, Chadwick, Harley (Lines 56); McLeod (Lowe 56).
Subs not used: Kouo-Doumbe, Flanagan, Baldock, Rasulo.
Goal: Williams 27
Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire)
Attendance: 9,815 (267 away)