MK Dons played out a stalemate with Shrewsbury Town at the Greenhous Stadium on the opening day of the 2013/14 Sky Bet League 1 season.
As excitement for the new campaign bubbled into fever pitch mode neither side were able to replicate the fans’ hopes and expectations in the first half as a drab opening 45 minutes created little opportunities in front of goal.
The second half, however, had more thrills and spills with Paul Parry and Aaron Wildig both denied by David Martin in the Dons’ goal while the visitors went close to a winner in the closing stages when Chris Weale’s fingertip save prevented George Baldock from taking three points for the men from MK1.
Lee Hodson and Jason Banton were handed their League debuts for the Dons in Karl Robinson’s first side of the season while 17-year-old Dele Alli, who penned a professional deal in the summer, was also given the nod to start in the number 10 role behind Alan Smith.
As with the start of any new campaign, both sides started lively with a quick tempo running through the game in the early stages. The eagerness to impress meant the play was slightly erratic but the Dons were keen to get the ball on the floor and impose their style on their hosts, yet Shrewsbury were quick to press and disrupt their movement.
The first real chance of the game came with 15 minutes on the clock when Joe Jacobson whipped in a cross at the far post, yet Dean Lewington got there before a Town player could to turn a diving header out for a corner. The brave defending left the Dons skipper needing treatment but after an initial scare the left-back quickly returned to position.
Despite a long pre-season for both the Dons and Town, neither side had found the sharpness needed to create a moment of magic in the match.
Tom Bradshaw thought he had an opening in front of him when Aaron Wildog’s pass set him free down the right flank, but rather than wait for a measured attempt Bradshaw fired an ambitious shot which failed to test David Martin in goal.
When Shrewsbury became a little bit lax in defence Alli was smart enough to apply pressure as Chris Weale received a pass in the area, unfortunately for the Dons though the Shrews defence quickly recovered from their goalie’s error.
The Dons had found themselves frustrated in the final third with Chadwick struggling to get into the game on the right wing and Banton, Alli and Smith had experienced little joy in front of goal.
So when Stephen Gleeson was presented with a free-kick in the 33rd minute the Dons had a chance to test Weale in goal. The midfielder delivered an excellent ball into the box but Tamika Mkandawire was able to out-jump Antony Kay and prevent the Dons from registered an effort at goal.
The Dons’ best chance in open play came five minutes later when Alli fed the ball into the path of Chadwick, but the 32-year-old’s shot carried little power and trickled well wide.
As half-time approached both sides edged a little closer to breaking the deadlock when Bradshaw ghosted into the area yet as he shaped to shoot, Williams made a smart block. At the opposite end, Kay tried his luck from distance, which wasn’t the worst decision, as his shot lifted just inches over.
The interval was a welcome break as it allowed both managers to address a disappointing first half of football. The match restarted at a frightening pace with Banton tearing down the left flank only for the Shrews defence to cut out the ball before the cross reached the intended target, Gleeson.
The Shrews were also lively with a corner, which was eventually saved by Martin, and a free-kick Paul Parry which fizzed marginally wide of the post.
Just seven minutes into the second half the Dons made their first change of the match with Patrick Bamford introduced in place of Banton.
The hosts had some wind in their sails and forced Martin into a good stop when a Kay clearance only fell as far as Parry, who hit a sweet volley into the grateful arms of the Dons goalie.
The Shrews’ momentum continued when Taylor showed raw pace as the tore his way down the left wing before cutting the ball back to Marsden. The forward’s drilled effort squeezed through the Dons’ defence and forced an excellent one-handed save from Martin to keep the score goalless.
In an attempt to respond to the pressure they had been under the Dons had chances through Bamford, whose shot was horribly wide, and an off-target header from Lewington, which had come from their first corner of the game in the 65th minute.
The Dons’ second change of the match came with 32 minutes remaining when Smith made way for Izale McLeod.
McLeod brought an extra presence up front for the Dons, but it was Alli who proved a handful for the Shrews when the youngster went on a fine run through the defence, making his way past three bodies on the way, before appeals went up for a handball against Darren Jones, who had slid on the floor to block. The appeals were waved away and the hosts went on the counter-attack.
Some 11 minutes from time Martin made the save of the game to keep his side in the match whena point-blank effort was fired by Wildig from close-range but the goalie made a superb instinctive block to deny the midfielder.
It sparked a frenzied few minutes as Gleeson listed a shot well-over the bar before McLeod was denied when his right-footed shot picked up a deflection to turn the ball wide.
Substitute George Baldock was denied the chance to become the hero five minutes from time when he was found inside the Shrews’ box and spun on a sixpence before turning a decent strike goal-bound, only for Weale to tip the ball over the bar.
While neither side set out for a draw both will look to build on the point and clean sheet in the coming weeks.
Shrewsbury Town: Weale, Jacobson, Summerfield, Jones (Goldson 84), Bradshaw, Taylor, Marsden (McAllister 77), Wildig, Mkandawire (c), Parry (McQuade 88), Tavernier.
Subs: Anyon (GK), Woods, D Smith, Anderson
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Hodson, Kay, Williams, Lewington (c); Gleeson, Potter; Chadwick (Baldock 78), Alli, Banton (Bamford 52); Smith (McLeod 68).
Subs: McLoughlin (GK), Otsemobor, Flanagan, Reeves.
Referee: Gary Sutton (Lincolnshire)
Attendance: 5,144 (458 away)