The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By James Owens

MK DONS are guar­an­teed at least a play-off place af­ter their draw at Port Vale, but manager Karl Robin­son ad­mit­ted his side had wasted an op­por­tu­nity to close the gap on sec­ond­placed Pre­ston.

The form of the two sides could not have been more dif­fer­ent com­ing into this game, with the high-fly­ing Dons hav­ing won four on the bounce, while Vale’s sixgame los­ing run left them just two points above the bot­tom four.

Yet it was the hosts who had the bet­ter of a thor­oughly for­get­table con­test at a blus­tery Vale Park, with Robin­son’s top-scor­ing Dons fail­ing to reg­is­ter a shot at goal un­til six min­utes from time.

The only in­ci­dent of note in the first half came when Dar­ren Pot­ter con­ceded a foul on the edge of his own box, with Rob Page’s men ar­gu­ing that the Dons skip­per should have been sent off.

Robin­son’s side con­tin­ued to strug­gle af­ter the break, with Vale look­ing in­creas­ingly lively. Sub­sti- tute Mo­hamed Coulibaly went close with a firmly struck ef­fort 20 min­utes from time, and the im­pres­sive Mark Mar­shall set both Michael Brown and Ben Wil­liamson up in good po­si­tions.

Mar­shall came ag­o­nis­ingly close to win­ning the match in the dy­ing sec­onds. Michael O’Con­nor broke down the right and fizzed a low ball across the six yard box for the for­mer Coven­try winger, but the re­sult­ing goal­mouth scram­ble was cleared by Lee Hod­son.

“Ob­vi­ously, be­cause of how well we’ve played so far this sea­son, and of our form of late, you’ve got to look at it as a neg­a­tive re­sult,” Dons boss Robin­son ad­mit­ted.

Yet de­spite his side man­ag­ing just one shot at goal all game, Robin­son chose to place the em­pha­sis on Vale’s tac­tics and a poor pitch.

“Lis­ten, they set their stall out to break up the game,” Robin­son added. “Af­ter one minute and 30 sec­onds, they were walk­ing to take a cor­ner.

“We know we haven’t per­formed well. We’ve just got to be the big­ger men and say, ‘It’s a point when we’ve played poorly on a bad pitch, against a team who just tried to stop us do­ing what we do’.”

Vale boss Page ad­mit­ted he was frus­trated not to have won the game, but in­sisted that the re­sult would be a turn­ing point for his squad af­ter six straight de­feats.

“How that hasn’t gone in at the end I don’t know, so as much as we’re pleased with a clean sheet and a point, we’re dis­ap­pointed we haven’t won the game,” Page re­flected.

“But we’re re­ally pleased that we’ve man­aged to get that los­ing run to end. It’s been a dif­fi­cult time, not just for the sup­port­ers, who have rightly been frus­trated.You know, we all feel it, the man­age­ment and the play­ers.”

“We’ll take the clean sheet and the point, and that’s a turn­ing point for us.

“There’s a big buzz in that chang­ing room at the minute. “We be­lieve this is the turn­ing point for us now, and we will be able to build mo­men­tum from this.”


HEADS UP: Ben Wil­liamson sees his header ric­o­chet away to safety off Dele Alli LET­TING RIP: Rob Hall gets a shot in on goal for MK Dons

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