MK Dons were held to a frustrating goalless draw by Colchester United on Wednesday afternoon, in the side's first match of 2014.
Dale Jennings and Patrick Bamford both went close with decent chances in the first half - Bamford playing in his final game at stadiummk before his loan spell ends on Sunday - while Stephen Gleeson and later, Darren Potter saw second half efforts saved well by U's 'keeper Sam Walker. Winger Daniel Powell, on his return from injury, also had an injury-time shot denied by the underside of the crossbar.
The result leaves the Dons, who were without manager Karl Robinson on the touchline after he was suspended by The FA on Tuesday, 11th in Sky Bet League 1 but they do close the gap on the playoff places to six points points, at the half-way point of the season.
The Dons had the first chance of the game as Jennings found space at the far post, but couldn’t direct his header on target. Ben Reeves then went close as his shot from the edge of the area was deflected wide.
Somehow the side from MK1 didn’t manage to take the lead when Jennings played a low ball across the six-yard-box on nine minutes and Ben Reeves had an effort blocked before Patrick Bamford, with the goal gaping, couldn’t poke his effort home. Bamford had another chance moments later as he drilled a fierce low shot at goal, which Sam Walker saved with his chest.
Colchester’s first effort came through Tom Eastman five minutes later as he got on the end of Luke Garbutt’s free-kick but David Martin comfortably stopped his header.
The lively Jennings was involved in everything the Dons were doing and Walker could only parry his 19th minute effort from outside the box and the 21-year-old also went close with a powerful long range shot moments later, which flew just wide of the post.
On the stroke of half-time, Bamford drove into the penalty area and latched onto a Darren Potter pass, but Walker blocked his fellow-Chelsea loanee’s attempt from a tight angle. The Dons were undoubtedly the better side in the first-half, but failed to find the breakthrough they needed despite a number of chances.
But the Dons’ dominance continued after the break, with Walker forced into pushing a long range Reeves strike out of danger moments after the re-start before doing the same from a Shaun Williams free-kick several minutes later.
Mid-way through the second period, Stephen Gleeson curled in a cross which just evaded the onrushing pair of Potter and Bamford while Jennings, who was causing the Colchester United defence havoc, dragged effort inches wide of the post after a neat dribble into the area.
Just before the hour mark, Reeves played in Bamford with an impressive through ball but the loanee was denied a dream final home goal by the linesman’s flag. Bamford also shot straight at the ‘keeper soon after, following some good work by substitute George Baldock down the right.
The Dons then introduced winger Daniel Powell, who made his first appearance since November following a spell on the sidelines through injury, and he almost marked with a goal but after showing his pace with a bursting run down the left, Walker was at his very best to tip his low shot around the post.
Some lovely link-up play between Reeves and Bamford then saw the 20-year-old forward cross into Gleeson, but Walker did fantastically well to deny him by pushing the ball over the crossbar from close range.
Still the Dons couldn’t find a breakthrough, and this time it was Reeves who was thwarted by Walker before the goalkeeper acrobatically turned Potter’s header over.
In the final seconds of the match Powell broke free in the penalty area and his driven effort smashed against all three pieces of woodwork before being cleared by Colchester defenders as the Dons just couldn’t put the ball into the net.
Karl Robinson’s men, therefore, begin 2014 with a point at stadiummk, but if it hadn’t have been for goalkeeper Sam Walker they could have taken all three points.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Hodson (Baldock 74), Spence, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Carruthers (Powell 80), Reeves, Jennings (Alli 61); Bamford.
Subs not used: McLoughlin (GK), Flanagan, Smith, Kay.
Booked: Potter, Spence, Carruthers, Gleeson
Sent off: None
Colchester United: Walker, Wright, Dickson, Okuonghae (Morrison 90), Eastmond (Gilbey 79), Watt (Vose 66), Bean, Ibehre, Eastman, Wilson (c), Garbutt.
Subs not used: Cousins (GK), Sears, Turgott, Olufemi.
Booked: Wilson, Bean
Sent off: None
Attendance: 7,879 (354 away)
Goal-Don Treble Chance HT draw numbers: 05-02-15-09