MK Dons were held to a goalless draw by Lincoln City in their first game of 2023 at Stadium MK.
Mark Jackson’s men dominated the majority of the clash but were unable to break down a stubborn Imps defence – Nathan Holland and substitute Matthew Dennis with their best chances of the game while Mo Eisa also had a second-half penalty shout turned down.
The result makes it four points from Jackson’s first two home games in charge of the Dons. His side now turn their attention to an important trip to Forest Green Rovers, before returning to Stadium MK for back-to-back games in Milton Keynes.
Jackson made two changes from the New Year's Day defeat to Plymouth Argyle as Tennai Watson and Josh McEachran replaced Henry Lawrence and Bradley Johnson. New signing Jonathan Leko wasn’t eligible to feature and will have to wait to make his debut.
Louie Barry sent an early cross into the Lincoln penalty area from the left wing but it was cleared away by a visiting defender in front of Mo Eisa. From the opposite flank, Nathan Holland had the game’s first shot but his effort, from just inside the area, flashed wide.
Lincoln threatened for the first time from a 10th-minute corner, which was met by Daniel Mandriou but diverted away from goal by the head of Jack Tucker. Warren O’Hora also made a vital interception five minutes later to prevent a cross in from the left finding Mandriou.
Tucker did well again with 22 minutes played to get across Mandriou and deny the striker an opportunity to direct a low cross towards goal – that chance came on the counter after a sustained period of possession from Jackson’s side.
The Dons were forced into a change on the half-hour mark as O’Hora limped off after landing awkwardly following an aerial challenge. He was replaced in the centre of defence by Zak Jules.
Looking to create something before the break, McEachran and Robson went agonisingly close to connecting but the former’s through pass was cut out, preventing the MK Dons number 8 from being in on goal.
Shortly after, Lincoln forced Jamie Cumming into his first save of the afternoon – the Chelsea loanee equal to Jack Diamond’s 20-yard strike. At the other end, Holland took on his man inside the area but wasn’t able to get to the ball before it ran over the by-line.
With two minutes to play in the half, Jules got himself in the way of Mandriou’s try from the edge of the area. The Dons were able to get into the Lincoln half briefly in first-half stoppage but weren’t able to threaten Carl Rushworth and find an opener before the interval.
Early in the second half, Barry lifted a ball over the top for Mo Eisa to chase but Rushworth was quick off his line to gather ahead of the MK Dons striker. Mandriou then forced Cumming into a diving save down to his left as the Imps threatened an early goal too.
The Dons went close with 54 minutes played but, after Devoy won possession and found Holland inside the area, the MK Dons winger saw his effort deflect into the side netting off a sliding defender.
Robson limped off moments later as the Dons made their second and third substitution – Johnson was Robson’s replacement while Matthew Dennis was brought on for Barry.
Dennis almost made an instant impact but, after both he and Eisa broke the offside trap, the latter’s ball across goal was just out of his teammate’s reach.
Eisa and Dennis had a new strike partner in the form of Will Grigg, who came off the bench with 66 minutes on the clock to replace Holland.
Eisa had a decent shout for a penalty shortly after Grigg’s introduction but referee Benjamin Speedie deemed the push on him inside the area to be a fair one. He then got his head to a McEachran but couldn’t get the effort on target.
With nine minutes to play, Grigg went close to getting a head to Harvie’s cross. The ball was then recycled out to Dennis, whose goal-bound strike was blocked by a Lincoln defender.
The MK Dons number 30 went close again following the corner, but his left-footed effort was claimed well by Rushworth.
Jackson’s men had the better of the six minutes of stoppage time but they were unable to force a shot on goal, despite a late free-kick and corner which was just about dealt with by the visitors. Honours even.
MK Dons: Cumming, Watson, Tucker, O’Hora (Jules 30), McEachran, Robson (Johnson 57), Eisa, Holland (Grigg 66), Barry (Dennis 57), Harvie, Devoy.
Subs: Ravizzoli, Smith, Lawrence.
Lincoln City: Rushworth, Poole, Boyes, Jackson, Sanders, Hopper (Eyoma 90+1), Bishop (Shodipo 66), O’Connor, Mandriou (Vernam 84), Sorensen, Diamond (Makama 90+1).
Subs: Wright, Oakley-Boothe, Benn.
Referee: B Speedie
Attendance: 8,317 (885 away)