MK Dons held Premier League side Norwich City to a goalless draw in their first home friendly of the 2012/13 pre-season.
After keeping the likes of Simeon Jackson, Sean Morison and Robert Snodgrass at bay in the first half the Dons could have edged the tight encounter in the second half with Jay O’Shea denied a fine effort while Luke Chadwick and Charlie MacDonald had efforts fall off-target.
Norwich had plenty of chances themselves – the best of which came in the final minute when Steve Morison was denied by a fine save from David Martin.
Karl Robinson fielded as-near to his full strength side as possible, taking into account the fitness programmes assigned to individual players, and opted to put Alan Smith up front for the first time in pre-season.
The former Newcastle United star had been operating the defensive midfield role during the Dons’ trip to Dublin, however, he was let off the reins to play in an attacking role up front. Robinson has expressed his desire to adopt a 4-3-3 formation for the forthcoming season and against top class opposition it was the perfect test for the MK1 men.
Chris Hughton, who took over as Norwich boss in the summer, opted for a strong side to make the trip to stadiummk with the likes of Wesley Hoolahan, Chris Martin and new recruit from Leeds Robert Snodgrass all featuring in the starting XI.
As with most friendlies, it took some time for the tempo to kick into the game and when it did the Dons were forced to work hard for possession in the opening stages. The Dons though had some good movement and when Shaun Williams lofted an excellent cross from the left touchline into the box it only needed a touch to take it into the back of the net.
However, Declan Rudd was fast out of the traps and quickly intervened before the advancing Stephen Gleeson could get a touch.
The Canaries were strong in possession but clear-cut chances were at a premium for the visitors, that was until an excellent cross from Simeon Jackson forced a sliced clearance by Mathias Kouo-Doumbe and, to the relief of David Martin, the ball looped just over the bar.
It was from the wide areas that the Canaries looked to be at their most threatening, this time a cross from the left from the boot of Snodgrass caught out the Dons defence and Kouo-Doumbe made amends for his early error as he cleared the danger.
The chances began to flow for Norwich as Snodgrass impressed on his first start for the Norfolk outfit. The talented winger delivered another fine cross for Morrison who clattered into Martin as they both went for the ball.
Moments later, the Dons were living life dangerously again when Jackson found his way into the box and, after being closely pressed by Gary MacKenzie, the former Gillingham striker dragged his shot wide of the post.
The half-time interval brought a change for the Dons with Jay O’Shea taking the place of Adam Chicksen but the winger moved into the midfield three. As a result Kouo-Doumbe shifted to right-back while Williams dropped into the centre of defence.
The Dons re-started brightly with Dean Bowditch making great in roads down the right but with no way through the defence last season’s top goal scorer pushed the ball back to Gleeson who lashed a fine long-ranger effort that kept Rudd on his toes.
Moments last O’Shea provided the spark the game had needed when he dazzled down the left flank before cutting inside to fire a superb shot that Rudd only managed to tip over with his fingertips.
As expected, Robinson continued to change his side with Charlie MacDonald coming off the bench to take the place Smith as the forwards were all given a chance to impress for a place in the manager’s starting XI.
Norwich though, kept up their pressure and when the ever-impressive Snodgrass delivered a pinpoint accurate corner only a reaction block from Martin denied Michael Turner’s header. The visitors continued to throw everything at the Dons yet the defence stayed strong as they dealt with cross after cross.
In a counter-attack move Dean Lewington found himself in acres of room in the middle of the pitch and was able to feed a great ball through to Powell whose low drill forced Rudd into a save, but unfortunately Chadwick’s follow-up saw him stab the ball wide.
There was still time for a first appearance for new signing Ryan Lowe just 48 hours after inking a two-year deal with the Dons. The forward almost made an immediate impression as he ran on to a long ball over the top and a good touch allowed him to get beyond Ryan Bennett. The defender then appeared to push Lowe to the floor yet the penalty appeal was waved away.
Lowe then showed a good understanding with fellow striker MacDonald as the duo linked up on the edge of the box before MacDonald’s shot rose just over the bar. In the closing stages the Canaries almost stole a winner when Morison raced clear yet an excellent tip-over by Martin denied him the glory.
While a goal was not forthcoming, it was a positive workout for the Dons as Robinson was able to field all but ‘keeper Ian McLoughin and trialist Dean Burton in the game. Confidence will also be hih having kept a clean sheet against top flight opposition with another test waiting in the form of Fulham on Tuesday evening.
MK Dons: Martin; Chicksen (O’Shea 46), MacKenzie, Kouo-Doumbe, Lewington (c); Gleeson, Potter (Lowe 79), Williams; Chadwick (Ibehre 73), Smith (MacDonald 56), Bowditch (Powell 62).
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Burton.
Norwich City: Rudd; Francomb, Barnett, Turner (R Bennett 65), Lappin; Snodgrass, Hoolahan, Surman, Jackson (Murphy 80); Martin, Morison.
Subs: Matthews, Barker, Johnson, E Bennett.