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Frustrating night for Dons as Millwall take points


Goalscorer Mark Laird

By Oli
March 18 2009

Marc Laird's goal was enough to see Millwall take all three points from their visit to stadium:mk, after the Dons once again played the better football of the two sides but failed to make their chances count. Manager Roberto Di Matteo made one forced change to the side that beat Oldham 6-2, the injured Sam Baldock sitting out, with Puncheon starting in attack alongside Aaron Wilbraham and Jemal Johnson replacing him out wide on the left. There was no Izale McLeod for Millwall as the Lions look to bring him back to the club on loan, but Laird and Adam Bolder were passed as fit to start.

Puncheon had the Dons' first chance after a quick, bright start from the home side, beating Andy Frampton before driving narrowly wide of David Forde's goal from 25 yards.

But the on-loan Plymouth man missed what was easily the best chance of the match just a minute later; causing havoc with his running in attack he raced onto a Dean Lewington pass on the left side of the penalty area, showing great strength to turn defender Tony Craig before rounding the goalkeeper. With the goal at his mercy, Frampton did enough to ensure he dragged his shot wide. It was a miss the Dons would regret.

Puncheon was again involved as the Dons carved out their next chance, skipping in from the right and feeding Luke Chadwick in the box, who saw his shot saved. Navarro got the loose ball wide to Johnson and he crossed for Wilbraham, whose overhead kick didn't pack enough power to trouble Forde.

And on 19 minutes, the curse of the soft free-kick struck again. Again, Miguel Llera was called up for seemingly nothing, and from the resulting set-piece James Henry swung in a cross that was headed home by Laird. A nothing decision, but the Dons only had themsleves to blame as again they failed to defend the free-kick properly.

Dons had a free-kick of their own in a good position after half an hour, but Lewington's shot hit the wall. Johnson whipped in a couple of decent corners, with one unconvincingly punched away by Forde, but Chadwick's header from just inside the box was cleared.

Dons had the ball in the net on 37 minutes but the linesman's flag was raised. Lewington's cross from the left was flicked on by Wilbraham to Puncheon, who pushed inside from the right side of the box and fired home, but the offside was given.

Despite playing well the Dons went in at the break a goal down, with a failure to take their chances again costing them. Puncheon had been the main spark, but his open goal miss really was inexcusable for a side gunning for promotion; a clinical edge was needed if the Dons were to win the game, and, ultimately, win promotion.

It didn't come. Puncheon again had the first chance of the half, and to his credit he wasn't spurning everyone else's hard work; most of Dons' openings were coming through his trickery and ability to beat his man. From Shaun Cummings' throw he shot on target but the effort was comfortably saved by Forde. Further efforts from Chadwick and Alan Navarro were comfortably stopped.

The quality in the Dons' play was lessening as the match wore on and there were certainly some tired looking legs starting to show in front of a crowd of 12,238 at stadium:mk.

Ali Gerba was introduced for Chadwick for the Dons, with Puncheon moving wide, and the Canadian nearly made an instant impression with a diving near post header to meet a Lewington cross that went narrowly wide, although the offside flag was again raised.

You could argue that set-pieces were the difference on the night; Millwall took their chance but the Dons were wasteful all night. Corners weren't too much of an issue for the Lions to defend and on 68 minutes Puncheon wasted another free-kick from good range, putting it well over the bar.

Daniel Powell was introduced after 75 minutes for Johnson and the youngster, fresh from recently signing a professional deal, produced one of his most promising camoes yet, adding some genuine quality to his usual powerful running.

And it was Powell who had the Dons' only real chance of the second half. Sean O'Hanlon and Llera battled for a Puncheon corner and the ball fell for Powell, who did very well to angle his body into a position to meet the bouncing ball, but his drive hit the side netting, with most of the ground celebrating a goal as it hit the wrong side of the net.

Dons had a penalty appeal turned down on 84 minutes as Puncheon chipped a ball into the box and Wilbraham was pulled all over the place by Frampton, only for the referee to wave play on. Wilbraham has a bit of reputation for going to ground but this time he didn't fall - he was just tugged all over the place by the Millwall defender.

Gerba saw a long range shot go well wide before David Martin had a chance to finish it on the counter-attack for Millwall, Henry raiding down the right and finding the left winger at the back post only for him to half-volley into the side netting.

The Dons didn't have time to respond though, despite a last minute or so of pressure from a corner and a couple of throw-ins. Another decent performance, again though no result and now Di Matteo's side have left themselves needing to win both of their remaining games in hand to overtake Peterborough United, and that's if they can keep up with them until those two games are played.

Dons: Gueret 6; Cummings 5, O'Hanlon 7, Llera 7, Lewington 8; Chadwick 6 (Gerba 58, 6), Leven 6, Navarro 5, Johnson 6 (Powell 75, 7); Puncheon 8, Wilbraham 6.

Unused subs: Abbey, Stirling, Belson.

Booked: Wilbraham.

Millwall: Forde; Duffy, Craig, Frampton, Barron; Henry, Fuseini, Bolder, Laird, Martin; Alexander.

Unused subs: Pidgeley, Harris, Grabban, Grimes, O'Connor.

Booked: Laird, Alexander, Henry, Duffy.

Goals: Laird 20.

Attendance: 12, 238.

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Frustrating night for Dons as Millwall take points
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18/03/2009 19:37
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