MK DONS 0 CRAWLEY TOWN 0
Dons’ promotion aspirations suffered a blow as they were held by Crawley Town, despite dominating at stadiummk.
The visitors soaked up pressure for most of the game and Dons striker Ryan Lowe had a hat-trick of goals ruled out for offside on a frustrating afternoon.
Dons started brightly when Lowe latched onto the ball and played it to Dean Bowditch, who knocked the ball into the box only for it to be collected by Crawley’s number one Paul Jones.
The hosts kept the pressure up, but were soon hit on the counter when Sergio Torres collected the ball and played a through pass to striker Paul Hayes, which was too long and dealt with by Mathias Kouo-Doumbe and Ian McLoughlin.
In a real end-to-end first five minutes, Dons put the ball in the net when a free-kick from Patrick Bamford was headed in by Lowe, but it was ruled out for offside.
Bamford decided he wanted to get in on the action when with seven minutes on the clock, he hit a left footed shot from the 18 yard box, forcing a save from Jones.
Dons winger Daniel Powell, brought in for Chris Lines, was a handful for Crawley down the right hand side, looking a threat every time he burst forward.
Crawley had real trouble mounting any attacks, lurking into offside positions, meaning McLoughlin had very little to do in the first half as Dons kept the visitors pinned in their own half and having to resort to long balls.
Their long ball tactic almost came good when former Leicester City attacking midfielder Nicky Adams played a perfect pass from inside his own half to Billy Clarke on the left wing, who was in acres of space.
Clarke cut in and shot across the goal, with the ball just going wide of the post.
Dons had several more chances to take the lead and would have done after 28 minutes were it not for heroics from Jones.
Jon Otsemobor whipped the ball in, which Lowe flicked towards goal with his trailing foot, but Jones got a hand to it when the ball was on the line to push it high and wide, with Dons wondering how they weren’t a goal to the good.
Just before the break, Lowe had the ball in the net for a second time.
Shaun Williams won the ball in the centre circle and got his shot away after beating several Crawley players.
His effort was parried by Jones into the path of Lowe, who again saw an offside flag after slotting home.
Dons had another chance to open the scoring just before the break, when Bowditch crossed from the goal line to Powell, who somehow fired over from five yards out.
After the break, the visitors started brightly, with Adams having a shot from inside the box, which was deflected just wide by Williams.
On 53 minutes, Williams showed he can be a rock at the back and also an attacking threat, coming close to breaking the deadlock with a shot from just outside the area which looked destined for the top corner, forcing Jones to tip it over.
After this, Dons settled back into their rhythm, keeping the pressure on the Red Devils, keeping them pinned in their own half.
Karl Robinson’s side had the majority of possession and pressure, but they failed to convert this into real chances in the second half.
Crawley threatened too, with Clarke once more forcing a save from an effort outside the box with 65 minutes on the clock.
Five minutes later, Adam Chicksen looked to play Stephen Gleeson through on goal, but the Crawley defence closed him down before he could get a shot away to test the goalkeeper.
It was not long until Dons were back on the attack, with Bamford making a darting run down the centre before he was brought down just outside the penalty box by a cynical challenge from Mat Sadler.
Lowe fired the resulting free kick straight at the wall.
As it moved into the last 15 minutes, Dons desperately tried to search for a winner, with Chicksen taking the ball down the left wing, but his cross didn’t make it past the first man.
Bamford then held the ball up in the box, before a neat little lay off to Luke Chadwick whose goal-bound shot was blocked on the line.
After this a string of successive corners followed, which Crawley’s defence dealt with.
On 84 minutes, Williams again had a shot, but his frustration showed as he fired the ball high and wide.
Lowe then completed his hat-trick of goals ruled out for offside.
After being played through he beat the defender and goalkeeper with his shot but once again it was to no avail.
This didn’t dishearten the striker who pushed to find the winner, forcing a foul from Mustapha Dumbaya on the edge of the box with 89 minutes on the clock.
Bowditch fired the resulting free kick agonisingly wide and despite all the pressure, Crawley held firm to take a share of the spoils.
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Kouo-Doumbe, Williams, Gleeson (c), Potter, Bowditch, Chicksen, Lowe, Powell (Chadwick, 60), Bamford. Subs: Smith, Baldock, Lines, Chadwick, Rasulo
Crawley Town: Jones, Dumbaya, Sadler, Essam, Clarke, Torres, Walsh, Bulman (c), Adams (Connolly, 90), Jones (Hunt, 90), Hayes (Proctor, 70). Subs: Maddison, Connolly, Hunt, Proctor, O’Brien, Elford-Alliyu