The first competitive meeting between Stevenage and MK Dons ended goalless after a game where both sides had chances to book a place in the second round of the FA Cup at the weekend.
Boro had the last-second intervention of centre back Jon Ashton to thank for keeping the scores level while at the other end Stephen Gleeson’s attempted headed clearance hit his own upright.
The Boro team lined up without top scorer Chris Holroyd as parent club Brighton decided he couldn’t play, so Ben May led the line alone. Terry Dixon, one of a few new players involved with the reserves in midweek, was handed a place on the bench.
Stevenage went on the attack early on, intent on causing some damage and capitalising on the Dons’ inevitable under-estimation of them, which Westley’s program notes pinpointed as a key factor. Boro should have had the lead within five minutes as the tactics worked well; O’Shea played in Laird down the left, whose low pull-back found the unmarked Stacy Long ten yards out. Long’s shot was firm but straight at David Martin, who saved with his legs.
Long had another shot saved more comfortably by the keeper when he controlled the ball and worked some space for a right-footed effort. Ben May’s back-post header also went wide. Meanwhile, MK Dons did threaten the centre back pairing who looked a little lacking in pace when presented with the speedy Leven.
Roberts did well to make up for his error with a timely tackle and Ashton was on hand to shepherd Sam Baldock away from the ball when through one-on-one with Day, who was then able to collect. Leven himself shot just over from 30 yards after a free-kick as the game became more even going in at half time.
The second half saw the Dons grab control of the game in the opening half hour and create several opportunities. Lewis Guy’s back-post cross evaded the Boro defence and Baldock’s placed header beat Day and was heading back towards goal before Jon Ashton, who had anticipated the trouble, got back and stretched to hook the ball clear off the line. For a while, the crosses were coming in thick and fast and it was only the diving blocks and challenges of Ashton that were keeping the Dons at bay.
Substitutes were needed to give the Boro attack new impetus and fans got their wish when Odubade and Sinclair came on for Long and Wilson. Odubade’s arrival spurred both the fans and the players as his pace provided the option of knocking the ball over the top.
Boro started to wrestle back some control and went close when Mousinho’s effort from outside the area had to be tipped round the post by the keeper. Stevenage were almost handed a victory when Gleeson tried to clear a cross but headed against his own post but the follow-up scramble couldn’t propel the ball goalwards.
Stevenage will try again in ten days’ time in the knowledge that so far this season the Dons had lost all but one of their away games in the league but have not lost at home yet, recording six wins and two draws.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.