Despite end-to-end action, MK Dons leave Rodney Parade with a point following a goalless draw in their Sky Bet League Two clash against Newport County.
Mike Williamson had introduced Darragh Burns into the squad for the first time within the league contest so far this season.
The winger was named on the bench amongst the likes of Kelly, Eisa, Smith, Devoy, Dennis and Lewington, who made his return from injury against Reading but wasn’t deemed ready for starting selection.
From the previous Sky Bet League Two matchup against Swindon Town, Williamson made two changes to the starting XI, which saw injured players Robson and Tucker replaced for Leko and Williams.
It took just one minute for MK Dons to pose a threat on Nick Townsend’s goal, which forced the ‘keeper out from his line to claim a ball played over-the-top by Alex Gilbey before it could reach its intended target of Max Dean.
Joanthan Leko was the next player to bare down on the opposition’s are minutes later, but his marker met with the winger’s trickery and remained with him to turn behind his initial cross for the first corner of the game.
Payne’s in-swinging ball from the corner flag was then collected by Newport’s shot-stopper, Townsend.
Just ahead of the ten minute-mark the travelling team would rapidly race up the field as Joe Tomlinson covered plenty of yard down the left flank before finding Gilbey’s run at the back post.
Eager to get to a dangerous position, the captain found himself a step ahead of the pass, which saw his control bounce awkwardly for Townsend to pounce on.
Newport County soon responded with a chance of their own, which allowed Omar Bogle to try his luck from near the penalty spot as the cross into the area was cleared as far as the striker. Fortunately, O’Hora threw his body in the way of the effort to stop what could’ve been an early opener for the hosts.
Bogle was the first to see a yellow card following his protests against the referee’s decision for a foul against the Newport number nine.
17 Minutes into the tie and the home side’s supporters had thought the deadlock was broken. However, Shane McLoughlin’s shot was fired against the outside netting as Mike Williamson’s men did enough defensively to prevent a clear look at goal.
MK Dons had intentionally kicked the ball out of play whilst Daniel Harvie seemed in discomfort laying on the field following an aerial duel against Bogle. The number 21 returned to his feet after a few moments of recovery without the assistance of medical staff.
Bryn Morris evaded what could’ve been a second yellow card for the Exiles as the midfielder had prevented Conor Grant’s counter-attacking move with a mistimed challenge. Mike Williamson’s men was awarded with the free-kick in the middle of the pitch whilst Morris was spoken to by referee Ben Atkinson.
End-to-end action didn’t cease throughout the first 30 minutes of the match as the hosts created another dangerous move forward, which outnumbered the Dons’ defence.
Daniel Harvie was quickest to react and headed away a ball delivered into the back post, which if completed, would’ve found the feet of an unmarked Matt Baker.
The team in white then forced Townsend into what was a great save at his near-post to deny Max Dean’s close-range effort following Leko’s cut-back to the forward.
Bryn Morris took advantage of the space he was allowed towards the left of MK Dons’ penalty area, although the effort was struck with too much power to keep it low enough to trouble MacGillivray.
Another opportunity arose for Newport County on the 35-minute mark, Omar Bogle could’ve been the first name on the scoresheet as he breached the penalty area from the left – his curled effort failed to hit the target as the game remained level thus far.
Within the final ten minutes of the half, Graham Coughlan’s men had continued their pressure of the rear-guard of the visitors. This time, Cameron Norman’s heroics deflected a strong effort away from the goalmouth.
Within the closing stages Leko had gotten the better of Bondswell, which presented a chance for a cross into the box. But the pass into the opposite side of the host’s penalty area failed to meet with any white shirt.
Newport County had found enough room out wide to fire a ball low across the six-yard box – during the clearance, Atkinson had blown his whistle against the Exiles and had shortly booked Will Evans for his complaints thereafter.
A goalless first 45 minutes of action concluded at Rodney Parade.
Within the opening minutes Newport had held the Dons within their final-third as they didn’t allow them to escape whilst the ball was moved around the back-line. The Welsh side then gained a corner for their efforts, but MJ Williams was first to the delivery and headed clear.
Newport County were presented with a golden opportunity through their high-press, although Evans’ shot off target that came from the situation squandered what could’ve been a costly mistake.
Jonathan Leko continued to size-up his defender and thus had the better of Bondswell. The number seven would continuously create that slight space needed for his final ball, which this time around fizzed across the six-yard box. Townsend needed to get low and divert the ball away from danger.
Up the other end of the field, MacGillivray sprang into action as he claimed what was an acrobatic but tame effort from Matt Baker following a free-kick delivery into the Dons’ box.
Norman, Leko and Gilbey were all involved in what was a promising attack for MK Dons with 57 minutes on the stopwatch.
The wing-back played the ball into Leko’s feet, who successfully created a one-two pass with the Dons number eight – the ball in search for Dean could’ve proved useful for the opener had Bondswell not got back to deflect the pass behind the by-line.
Joe Tomlinson had come closest to breaking the deadlock after a long ball over-the-top of Newport’s defence had found the run of defender, who had flicked it past the onrushing Townsend. The hard work was completed, but Tomlinson failed to keep his angled shot down and on target as the Exiles quickly swarmed him.
On return to his former club, Cameron Norman was the first player for the visitors to earn a yellow card. A late attempt to steal the ball saw Norman collide with Nathan Wood and was thus booked for the offence.
Within the duel this time around, Norman then did brilliantly as he timed his challenge perfectly to prevent Wood from baring down on goal one-on-one with Craig MacGillivray.
Newport County had been denied by the crossbar just ahead of the 70-minute mark. Evans found himself at a tight angle down the left of the field, but a lofted ball had caused MacGillivray to rush back toward his goal-line as the ball bounced off the top of the crossbar.
Minutes after, MK Dons had found themselves with another great opportunity in front of goal. As they failed to clear their lines, Newport had invertedly placed the ball into Gilbey, who adjusted himself to find the target from close-range.
The midfielder was successful in causing trouble for Townsend, but the lack of power behind the hit gave the goalkeeper a chance to parry the ball away.
Replicant to the first-half, an end-to-end game occurred throughout the second stage of the fixture. Cameron Norman had dove in front of an effort from the edge of the area to save the strike ahead of Dons’ number one.
Joe Tomlinson raced into the opposition’s box as he opened up his body for a curled effort at goal – this was handled well by Townsend, who met the ball with both gloves.
Conor grant looked set to finally break the deadlock as there were less than ten minutes left of pay. Gilbey’s ball in-behind for Leko to chase was successfully gathered by the number seven, who had pulled the ball back into a brilliant position for Grant to latch onto.
If not for the heroic defensive display by the home side, who threw bodies on the line to turn away the effort then the Dons midfielder would’ve certainly found a late goal.
Townsend was also forced into making his second superb stop of the game to deny Tomlinson’s strike shortly after the Irishmen’s chance.
MK Dons had certainly been on the front-foot within the closing stages as another opportunity could’ve seen substitute Mo Eisa claim a late winner at Rodney Parade.
Amongst the action once again, Gilbey had received the ball before curling his pass into the run of Eisa at the back post. The striker slid across to connect with the ball, but he was an inch or two shy in his attempt.
Although Mike Williamson’s men had the lion share of chances within the second-half, MK Dons couldn’t find the winner they went in search for as it ended a goalless at Rodney Parade.
MK Dons: MacGillivray, Norman, O’Hora, Williams, Leko, Gilbey (C), Payne, Tomlinson, Grant, Dean (Eisa 86), Harvie
Subs: Kelly, Lewington, Smith, Burns, Devoy, Dennis
Yellow cards: Norman 67
Newport County: Townsend, Payne, Delaney (C), Evans, Morris, Bogle, Bennett, McLoughlin, Wood (Waite 84), Baker, Bondswell
Subs: Maxted, Thomas, Young, Sanca
Yellow cards: Bogle 14, Evans 45+1,
Stadium: Rodney Parade
Attendance: 3,777 (345)
Referee: Ben Atkinson