AFC Wimbledon had to settle for a point at Milton Keynes after dominating the match for long spells.
Andy Barcham came closest to breaking the deadlock, first when he struck a post, and then late on his shot was too close to Milton Keynes keeper Lee Nicholls. The 0-0 score-line keeps Wimbledon in the bottom four, but Neal Ardley's men can definitely take confidence from the performance, as they seek to climb the League One table.
Wimbledon were forced into a key change just before kick-off with George Long, who was named in the starting line-up, having to be replaced due to illness. Joe McDonnell therefore stepped up to take his place between the sticks with Nik Tzanev a late replacement on the bench. The other change involved a recall for Cody McDonald in place of Jon Meades, who had to settle for one of the substitute berths.
It wasn't long before McDonnell was tested, the stand-in Wimbledon keeper reacting well in the fifth minute to deny Conor McGrandles, who had found space in the box to get on the end of a cross. It was a good response to that early scare from Wimbledon with Neal Ardley's men coming so close to making the breakthrough. Andy Barcham beat his marker with lovely skill, before firing a shot against the inside of a post, and Ethan Ebanks-Landell just managed to hack it clear off the line.
For the first half hour, Wimbledon completely dominated and had decent chances to make the breakthrough. Barcham was in rampant form down the left, his impressive play acting as a springboard for attacks, and one move down that flank ended with Lyle Taylor dragging a shot across the face of goal. George Francomb, who was playing on the right side of midfield, then sent over a lovely cross, but no one was able to get on the end of it. A quick break out from Wimbledon fashioned a really good chance for Taylor, who was put through by a cracking ball by Cody McDonald, but Wimbledon's top scorer sliced well wide.
The momentum continued to be all one way and McDonald, who looked sharp on his recall to the team, showed fine skill to make space for himself in the box, but his shot flashed into the side netting. With Milton Keynes having their hands full containing impressive attacking play, their best opportunities came on the break. One defensive lapse provided Chuks Aneke with a chance to run through on goal, but Darius Charles got back well to get in a well-timed block. With 10 minutes until half-time, Milton Keynes finally started to exert a bit of pressure. McDonnell stayed alert to tip a fierce strike from Robbie Muirhead over the crossbar, before Barry Fuller showed fine defensive qualities to clear a dangerous cross from close to the goal-line.
As we progressed towards half-time, Wimbledon continued to threaten and Taylor had another shooting chance in the area after Jimmy Abdou had worked the ball into his path, but he shot over the crossbar. Abdou also shot just over the crossbar after a corner was only half cleared to the edge of the box. When the half-time whistle sounded, Wimbledon could be pleased with a very good performance so far, the only thing lacking being that killer touch.
At the start of the second-half, it needed more impressive defensive play from Darius Charles to stop Milton Keynes as he made a good block to prevent a goal-bound shot by Kieran Agard from testing Joe McDonnell. The first-half pattern remained in the second-half though with Wimbledon on the front foot and their opponents attempting to snatch something on the break. Liam Trotter started another fine Wimbledon move that ended with Francomb finding space, but his shot was too high. Taylor also tried his luck once again, but a deflection took the sting out of his shot and Milton Keynes keeper Lee Nicholls was able to grasp it.
Though there was more of a flow to the second-half with Milton Keynes pushing forward more, neither side had created a meaningful chance by the midway point of the half. Home supporters desperately appealed for a penalty in the 67th minute when Agard was challenged in the area by Deji Oshilaja, but it appeared to be just really strong defending within the laws of the game and referee Paul Tierney was unimpressed.
Just after the 70-minute mark, Neal Ardley made his first change with Jon Meades introduced for George Francomb. Shortly afterwards, another change was made with Harry Forrester entering the fray for McDonald. That came after Wimbledon came close to making the breakthrough. Lyle Taylor delivered a free-kick deep to the far post and Darius Charles rose highest to meet it with a soaring header, but Lee Nicholls reacted well to tip over. With five minutes left, Nicholls was fortunate to get away with a fumble from a cross, the ball almost landing for Trotter to steer home, but the ball was scrambled clear.
Wimbledon had a brilliant chance to win it with three minutes left when Taylor delivered a cross that fell nicely for Barcham, but with the goal gaping he shot straight at Nicholls from close range. Despite a fine performance on the day, that elusive goal just eluded Wimbledon and a point was the very least that was deserved from a match Neal Ardley's men should have won.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Barry Fuller, Deji Oshilaja, George Francomb (Jon Meades), Jimmy Abdou, Cody McDonald (Harry Forrester), Liam Trotter, Andy Barcham, Tom Soares, Darius Charles, Lyle Taylor.
Pic credit: Simon Davies, Pro Sports Images.