DONS returned to form against high flying Doncaster Rovers last night but they had to settle for a frustrating 0-0 draw at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Karl Robinson’s side enjoyed the better of the contest against a Rovers team who are second in League One but they could not find the back of the net.
However, it does mean Dons have halted a run of three defeats in a row.
“How have we not won that?,” Robinson said. “Did they have a shot on target?
“We have come to a team who are second and we deserved all three points.
“I knew I’d get a reponse today and the players knew they’d respond.”
Izale McLeod had a golden chance to open the scoring early on but after Luke Chadwick’s initial low drive was parried away by Gary Woods, he could only steer the rebound wide from close range.
At the other end Andy Griffin caught hold of a long range volley sweetly but the strike flew well clear of David Martin’s left post.
McLeod came close again with a curling effort which dropped wide and Dean Bowditch was also narrowly off target from the edge of the box as Dons began to press their opponents and get on top in the half..
A slip by home defender Jamie McCombe allowed McLeod a third promising chance of the half but with a Doncaster defender tracking back, the angle eventually became too tight for the striker and Woods was able to bat away his shot.
Rovers looked far from automatic promotion contenders in a first half when they were allowed to express little quality, and Brian Flynn’s side were perhaps suffering from a lack of confidence thanks to their own bad run which has seen them lose the last two matches.
They did have the best chance of the half though after Jon Otsemobor had wasted a free header for Dons following a corner.
Billy Paynter looked certain to score when the ball fell kindly for him just outside of the six yard box but he somehow ballooned his shot over the crossbar.
This was a huge let-off for Dons who were nearly made to pay for not converting their first half chances into goals.
In the second half Dons again started brightly and they produced the best football of the match so far on 50 minutes.
Chadwick and McLeod were both involved as Doncaster were split open but when the ball found its way to the well placed Dan Powell the winger opted not to shoot first time and he steered off target.
Dons continued to ask the questions, often breaking at speed against a back-pedalling Rovers defence.
With Chadwick back from injury the visitors were demonstrating a flair which hadn’t been seen in recent weeks and the home crowd was growing increasingly restless.
Despite this time continued to tick away without a precious Dons goal, a fact Gary MacKenzie nearly put right in the 72nd minute with a header which dropped just the wrong side of the upright. Chadwick’s excellent shift was ended early when Robinson opted to replace the recovering midfielder, who returned from knee ligament damage against Oldham on Saturday, with Adam Chicksen.
A Bowditch volley dipped over the top of the bar as Dons continued to perform well except where it mattered.
The game mirrored Dons’ performances earlier in the season, where they were the better side but failed to make that dominance count.
This cost Robinson’s men a number of points and they can ill-afford for that trend to start again with games running out in the promotion race.
Although this was a better performance than the dismal 3-1 defeat to Oldham, which prompted Robinson to apologise to chairman Pete Winkelman, Dons need wins and not draws at this stage of the season and this was an excellent chance to register one.
A McLeod effort which flew horribly off target late on summed up the evening for the visitors.
Dons are now ten points adrift of the play-off spots and have moved up to 12th in League One.
Robinson singled out McLeod for praise despite his misses.
“He gave their two centre backs a torrid time,” he said. “Yeah he missed chances, but you know what you get with Izale
“All of his chances today, he created himself. “You get the odd erratic strike from him but we will also get one which flies into the top corner of the net.”
Attention now turns to Saturday’s FA Cup fifth round tie with Barnsley, when a place in the quarter finals will be up for grabs.
The entire Tykes squad watched Dons in action against Doncaster.
Doncaster: G.Woods, Quinn, Spurr, McCombe, Jones, M.Woods, Griffin (Harper 46), Cotterill, Coppinger, Husband, Paynter (Sinclair 69). Unused subs: Maxted, Martis, Bennett, Wakefield, Fowler.
Dons: Martin, Otsemobor, Lewington, MacKenzie, Williams, Potter, Bowditch, Powell, Harley, McLeod, Chadwick (Chicksen 73). Unused subs: Doumbe, Smith, Flanagan, Baldock, Lines.
Att: 6423 (180).