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Match Reports

Report: Walsall 0-0 MK Dons

3 October 2023

Match Reports

Report: Walsall 0-0 MK Dons

3 October 2023

MK Dons were held to a goalless draw by Walsall despite a dominant away performance at the Poundland Bescot Stadium.

Graham Alexander’s men edged the Sky Bet League Two contest in terms of possession and chances on goal but were unable to find a way to secure all three points. Ellis Harrison and Mo Eisa with the Dons’ best chances.

Head Coach Alexander made one change to his starting XI from the weekend, with Cameron Norman starting at right wing-back after recovering from the illness which forced him out of the line-up just prior to the clash with Harrogate Town.

There was an early effort on goal by Aramide Oteh which was comfortably gathered by Craig MacGillivray. O’Hora then got in the way of Freddie Draper’s try before Ryan Stirk blazed the loose ball over the crossbar.

The Dons threatened for the first time on four minutes following a cross in from the right by Norman. Tomlinson met the delivery and that provided Ellis Harrison with a chance to shoot but he wasn’t able to get true connection on his attempt.

A ball in by Harvie, from the opposite flank, then caused problems for Owen Evans but the Saddlers goalkeeper did well to get a hand to the ball ahead of Harrison and Norman. Possession was recycled, though, and Harvie had an opportunity to shoot from the left apex of the penalty area – his strike, however, flew wide of the target.

Shortly after, Gilbey teed up Mo Eisa, whose right-footed shot was blocked by a Walsall defender. Harvie and Gilbey combined well from the resulting corner but the former’s cross into the mix was well cut-out by a Saddler.

The Dons, who were enjoying a dominant spell of possession, wanted a penalty for a handball on 10 minutes but referee Christopher Pollard waved away the appeals, led by Warren O’Hora, whose effort it was that appeared to strike a home defender’s arm.

An interception from MJ Williams sparked a Dons break down the right which saw Jack Payne slide a ball through to Harrison. The striker opted to set up Eisa instead of going for goal himself but the two weren’t able to link up.

Harrison did have a shot on 14 minutes, after Eisa’s initial effort was blocked, but the MK Dons number 9 was denied at point-blank range by a terrific diving save from Evans.

Moments later, the Dons had another shout for penalty turned down when Eisa appeared to be unfairly challenged from behind as he went to pull the trigger. Play did continue and O’Hora almost made that count, but his fierce drive from range whistled just past the post.

A good attacking move down the left led to another opportunity for Harrison but he was again thwarted by Evans who, at full stretch, managed to keep the striker’s header out from Harvie’s cross.

Stewart got himself in the way of Isaac Hutchinson’s strike as the hosts offered a reminder of their threat midway through the first half. At the other end, the Dons worked space for Tomlinson to deliver a cross for Harrison, who couldn’t direct his header goalwards.

Harvie’s terrific switch-of-play sprung a move which saw Payne deliver a low cross for Harrison but the ball was just a little behind the striker, who was unable to make much of it as a result.

Walsall did have the ball in the net with two minutes to play in the half but the linesman’s flag was raised before Draper swept home – Ross Tierney the man in an offside position in the build-up.

A vital interception from Tomlinson stalled the home side at the start of the second period. O’Hora did the same, three minutes later, to clear away a cross in from the Walsall.

The Dons then worked the ball forward to Eisa, who was brought down by Harry Williams as he spun the Saddlers centre-back 25 yards from goal. The MK Dons striker took the free-kick himself but wasn’t able to find his target of the top left-hand corner.

On 58 minutes, Gilbey spotted the run of O’Hora, up from the back, but the ball through to the defender was just out of reach – the Irishman was clean through on goal had he been able to latch onto the pass.

Alexander’s men broke forward again just past the hour, with Harvie sending a low ball into Eisa. The striker had his back to goal and wasn’t able to get a shot away before being dispossessed by his marker.

The Dons then saw a fierce strike from Hutchinson flash just past the post. Harrison then went close to a stunning opening goal – an overhead kick which Evans got strong hands to, quickly, in the centre of his goal.

That was Harrison’s final involvement as he was soon replaced by Matthew Dennis while Jonathan Leko was brought on for Payne in the same stoppage.

With just over a quarter of an hour left to play, Tomlinson found O’Hora from a free-kick delivery but the centre-back’s header was saved, and held, on the line by Evans. His opposite number, MacGillivray, then produced an excellent diving stop to keep out Tom Knowles’ goal-bound attempt from 25 yards.

On 82 minutes, Harvie found Tomlinson in space inside the area but he was caught in two minds whether to shoot or cross – his eventual ball was watched wide by the Walsall goalkeeper.

A low shot from Liam Gordon was gathered by MacGillivray with six minutes remaining in the 90. Four further minutes were added after that by the officials.

There was a fantastic opportunity to snatch all three points in the second of those additional minutes but, after being picked out by Leko’s low cross, Eisa wasn’t able to keep his first-time effort down.

Eisa tried his luck again moments later but fired over with his 30-yard strike. MacGillivray was then called into action to keep out Knowles’ shot, after Stewart had gotten in the way of his earlier attempt.

Those proved to be the final moments of note as the Dons bounced back from defeat by picking up a point on the road. They travel to Gillingham at the weekend.

MK Dons: MacGillivray, Norman, O’Hora, Williams, Gilbey, Harrison (Dennis 69), Eisa, Payne (Leko 69), Tomlinson, Harvie, Stewart.

Subs: Kelly, Tucker, Robson, Dean, Ilunga.

Booked: Harrison, Gilbey, Norman

Walsall: Evans, Gordon, McEntee, Daniels, Riley, Hutchinson, Draper, Williams, Oteh (Knowles 72), Stirk, Tierney (Matt 88).

Subs: Smith, James-Taylor, Foulkes, Johnson, Griffiths.

Booked: McEntee, Hutchinson, Williams

Referee: C Pollard

Attendance: 4,515 (245 away)


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