Milton Keynes Dons played out a goalless draw with Kettering Town on Saturday afternoon, in their first friendly on home soil.
Karl Robinson's side failed to breakdown the The Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division club, but picked up their fourth clean sheet of pre-season.
The biggest battle for the Dons was not their opposition, instead it was the pitch they were playing on. The Nene park surface was far from ideal as the dry, heavy pitch forced Karl Robinson to change his plans for the game with injury prevention measures meant a number of players were withdrawn.
Kettering were direct in their style of play as they tried to unsettle the Dons in the open phases. Omar Beckles appeared to have fouled Darren Potter inside the box on the left hand-side but the referee waved play on and rather than testing David Martin, he sprayed the ball to Jordan Patrick who fired wildly over.
In their new 4-3-3 formation, with Stephen Gleeson, Potter and Shaun Williams packed into midfield, the Dons were in control but the opening quarter of an hour presented few chances. Daniel Powell found himself through to goal but could not prevent his shot from rising before delivering an excellent cross to Gleeson who, with a defender marking him closely, headed over.
Former Dons youth ‘keeper Lawrie Walker was the man between the sticks for the Poppies and he managed to get a hand to shots from Powell and Charlie MacDonald.
When the Dons ran at the Poppies defence they often caused problems and when Williams’ superb ball to Bowditch looked certain goal until Palmer sent...
the striker tumbling. Williams’ resulting free-kick from the edge of the area had a little too much lift on it as it nestled onto the top of the net.
The chances then began to flow for the Dons as Bowditch was found in a good position only to send his shot over from 12-yards before Powell, who looked in tricky form, was once again denied a goal by a fine block from Walker.
On the stroke of half-time the Dons had a scare when an attempted clearance by Gary MacKenzie resulted in the ball stuck under his feet and Beckles took advantage as blasted an effort which Martin did well to block. Shaun Bennett-Johnson had the chance to follow up but blazed his shot well over.
Kettering mass changes at half-time and were put under immediate pressure when Williams’ free-kick was stuck with force straight at the goalkeeper.
In the 58th minute Robinson emptied his bench to bring on Jordan Ivey-Ward, Adam Chicksen, Charlie Collins, Luke Chadwick, Jabo Ibehre and Deon Burton to take the places of MacKenzie, Lewington, Potter, Gleeson, MacDonald and Bowditch respectively.
Burton, who scored in the pre-season trip in Ireland, would have been looking to make an impression in the game and within minutes the forward was claiming he should have had a penalty. As he worked well to get across the box Burton was pushed in the back when he tried to rise to meet the cross, but his appeals were turned down.
There was little spark to the game, however, Williams did his best to bring the game to life when his long-range chip bounced over the keeper only to fall inches wide.
The Kettering team, packed with trialists, were holding their own against the Dons and limiting the men from MK’s chances.
Chadwick looked lively as he delivered crosses into the box, unfortunately they were not followed through and when the midfielder made inroads into the box he slid the ball to Burton but the trialist sipped as he tried to pull the trigger from 12-yards.
Once again Chadwick made his way through the left of midfield to cut the ball back from the byline and with Ibehre waiting a goal looked destined to arrive but the striker’s effort thundered off the post.
The duo linked up again minutes later when Ibehre’s diving header from Chadwick’s free-kick was excellently turned away by the Poppies goalie. It proved to be the last chance as the game finished goalless.
Kettering Town: Walker, Palmer, Gerring, Mukuma, Radford, Hervel, Beckles, Bennett-Johnson, Byerley, Patrick, Griffiths.
MK Dons (4-3-3): Martin; Kouo-Doumbe, MacKenzie (Ivey-Ward 58), Flanagan, Lewington (Chicksen 58); Potter (Collins 58), Gleeson (Chadwick 58), Williams, Powell, MacDonald (Ibehre 58), Bowditch (Burton 58).