Walsall 0 Milton Keynes Dons 0
at BescotStadium Walsall dropped two precious home points and lost the leadership of the Coca Cola League Two in this goalless draw with MK Dons, but manager Richard Money was disappointed that a few fans expressed dissatisfaction as they left the ground.
The team has been more effective than exciting in the first third of the season, generally depending on the excellence of their defence rather than any thrilling attacking play and there was always the danger that, if the goals dried up, results might suffer.
That’s what happened when the Dons restricted them to a couple of chances. Top-scorer Martin Butler is going through a lean spell, without a goal in his last six appearances, while Hector Sam isn’t a prolific scorer and, this time, the midfield men were unable to hit the target for them.
But Money said: "We have had eight clean sheets and picked up 22 points from a possible 24 at Bescot, but it appears that is not satisfactory for some people leaving the ground.
"But I’m very proud that we have kept eight clean sheets. It’s a fantastic record. One or two supporters here appear very difficult to please, I’m afraid."
One of the problems may be that supporters have seen the team struggle at home so much in the pre-Money years that they now expect more adventure from a team so high in the table, especially as they are playing sides in the Football League's basement division.
Even before this draw, I have heard complaints that the team is too defensive when playing at Bescot and the customers would like more entertainment but, while they are front-runners in the race for promotion, you can’t argue with the manager’s tactics.
Often in past weeks, Money has transformed matches with good substitutions early in the second half of games and it might have worked against the Dons if 19-year-old substitute Scott Dann had put better direction on his close-range header from Butler’s cross in the 64th minute. Unfortunately, it was just the right height for former Saddlers goalkeeper Lee Harper to save.
The fact that the manager has to send on a defender as an emergency striker, however, proves he is short of front-running talent and I should imagine he will be looking to strengthen that department of the team when the transfer window opens in January.
Another selection choice that helps the defence, but restricts Walsall’s attacking potential, is the continued choice of Daniel Fox as a left-sided midfield player, although he joined the club as a left-back.
As soon as speedy winger Ishmel Demontagnac went on, things started to happen up front and the crowd came alive.
Even so, it would have been an injustice had the Dons lost because they were more adventurous and inventive, with #1 million rated striker Izale McLeod showing just why Wolverhampton Wanderers had been keen to sign him. He will surely be playing at a higher level before the end of the season.
In the first half, Walsall’s only real effort was a 30-yard strike from Fox which flew just wide, while the visitors had two penalty claims rejected when McLeod was tackled.
He appeared to hit the ground too easily, though, earning a booking rather than a spot-kick for one of his close examinations of the turf.
The Dons almost won the game in the 77th minute when a deep cross from former West Bromwich Albion winger Lloyd Dyer struck the inside of the far post and rebounded into the hands of goalkeeper Clayton Ince, so preserving his record of not conceding a league goal at Bescot this season.
WALSALL (4-4-2) Ince; Pead, Gerrard, Roper, Taylor; Wright (Bedeau77), Dobson, Keates (Demontagnac64), Fox; Sam (Dann51), Butler.Subs: Bossu, Kinsella.
MILTON KEYNES DONS: (4-4-2) Harper; Smith, Diallo, O’Hanlon, Lewington; McGovern (Dyer 68), Andrews, Edds, Wilbraham (Crooks 77); Platt, McLeod (Taylor 90). Subs: Baines, Mitchell.
Referee: Grant Salisbury (Lancs)
Bookings: Walsall– Fox, Roper (fouls). MK Dons – McLeod (diving)