Sheffield United 0 MK Dons 0
MK Dons held automatic promotion-chasing Sheffield United to a goalless draw at Bramall Lane.
The Dons, who beat the Blades at stadiummk earlier in the season, were unable to find the elusive goal in the game but the result saw Karl Robinson’s men extend their unbeaten run to six games.
With four points in their last two games coming against the League leaders and promotion-hopefuls United, the Dons will believe they still have the time to overturn the 10 point gap which currently cuts them adrift from the play-offs.
In a game lacking clear-cut chances Ian McLoughlin kept the Dons in the game with a fine save from Jonathan Forte in a one-on-one opportunity, while both sides felt they could have had penalties in the second half.
The Dons made one change to the side which beat League leaders Doncaster earlier in the week with Alan Smith starting in place of the injured Luke Chadwick.
The importance of the game was huge for both sides, with the Dons looking to claw their way back into play-off contention while Sheffield United were aiming to confirm automatic promotion at the second time of asking.
It took until the sixth minute for the first shot of the game to be produce and it came in the form of a low drive from Barry Robson which Ian McLoughlin initially spilt before smothering the ball at the feet of Dave Kitson.
In a frantic start at Bramall Lane Jamie Murphy was able to get beyond Adam Chicksen down the right of the Dons’ defence, but Antony Kay as able to header the ball out for a corner before United could make their numbers count.
The home side had the upper hand in the early stages, but the Dons were always capable of providing moments of danger. When Chicksen broke down the right flank he was able to link up with Daniel Powell who turned a low shot into the body of George Long.
United were on the front foot and creating the greater number of chances with Kitson seeing a cross into the path of McMahon crossed out before Murphy headed a cross straight at McLoughlin.
The Dons defence had their backs against the wall as the Blades build up a period of pressure and when Barry Robson latched on to a Kitson header it was left to Chris Lines to block before McLoughlin was called back into action.
The visitors had seen enough of the ball but it was the hosts who looked more threatening going forward but when Dean Lewington was able to get hold of the ball he sent the Dons surging up the pitch with Lines driving through midfield with the ball at his feet. Powell was ready and waiting as the ball came into the box and his close-range shot was kept out by Long.
Unfortunately for the Dons, Powell appeared to pick up an injury as he took the shot and they were first into their first substitution with only 32 minutes on the clock. Robinson shuffled his pack with Mathias Kouo-Doumbe stepping into right-back and Chicksen moving into midfield.
McMahon blazed a glorious chance for the Blades just minutes before the break when the hosts tore through the Dons defence and the midfielder was unmarked with the goal at his mercy only to fire over the bar.
A throw-in caught the Dons cold and left Lewington trying to cover on the right of defence and he was duly pulled apart as Kitson breached the box to deliver a wicked cross. The ball fell perfectly to Robson whose fine header lifted just over the bar. It was a huge let off for the Dons and one which allowed them to head into the dressing rooms on level terms at the break.
Upon the re-start Antony Kay had a chance when he was found by a Bowditch free-kick but couldn’t keep his header down.
The Dons had enjoyed a lion’s share of possession in the opening stages of the second half, yet failed to create many options with it. As a result Robinson made his second switch of the match as he brought off Smith and introduced pace in the form of Patrick Bamford.
Bamford, who has been out injured for two months, had returned to the Club only two days earlier after he was given the go-ahead by his parent club Chelsea. And Stephen Gleeson quickly followed with his second appearance in a week since recovering from a broken foot.
The battle was there to be won or lost in midfield and when Kevin McDonald threaded a dream ball through to Jonathan Forte the United forward has a clear route through to goal. Forte had timed his run to perfection to get the better of the offside trap and only had McLoughlin to beat.
However, as the Irishman came off his line he made himself a physical presence and was able to make an excellent save to deny the hosts the opening goal of the match.
The Dons were left infuriated in the 75th minute when a mazy run by Bamford resulted in the forward being brought down in the box by Michael Doyle. The striker was clean through on foal as his heels were clipped by the Blades captain, yet the referee ruled that Bamford have dived.
The penalty looked as clear as they come and the referee’s decision sparked a furious response from the Dons boss on the bench.
United had an appeal of their own turned down moments later when Robson got across the body of Lewington and went down under the challenge. On this occasion the referee waved on play.
The Dons found themselves in danger with five minutes remaining when McLoughlin raced out of his area to stop Forte once more and a knock to his leg in the collision left the goalie crumpled on the floor as play continued around him. Fortunately the Dons defence were able to recover and clear the danger to allow McLoughlin to receive treatment.
In the closing stages some good work between Chicksen and Bamford paved way for Gleeson, but the midfielder saw his effort flash just wide of the post.
Neither side could find the winner, instead both had to settle for a point from an absorbing encounter.
Sheffield United: Long, Maguire, Hill, Flynn, Doyle (c), McDonald, Kitson, Collins, Robson (Poleon 83), Murphy (Forte 62), McMahon.
Subs not used: Coyne (GK), Westlake, Higginbotham, Ironside, McFadzean.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Chicksen, Kay, Williams, Lewington (c); Lines, Potter; Powell (Kouo-Doumbe 32), Smith (Bamford 58), Bowditch; Lowe (Gleeson 68).
Subs not used: Otsemobor, McLeod, Flanagan, Baldock.
Referee: C Boyeson
Attendance: 17, 936 (385 away)