AFC Wimbledon were forced to settle for a point following a 0-0 draw against Portsmouth on Tuesday night.
Despite making an electric start, Mark Robinson’s men struggled to test Gavin Buzunu in the visiting goal after hitting the target just once from their 12 attempts.
Nik Tzanev needed to be at his best to deny George Hirst and Sean Raggett while Mahlon Romeo’s long-range drive clipped the bar after the break.
Here are Daniel Marsh’s four takeaways after the spoils were shared at Plough Lane after an entertaining stalemate.
Ollie Palmer’s Wimbledon career may have been a slow burn after his injury problems blighted his move from Crawley, but the big striker has evolved into a pivotal player for the Dons.
Nobody has bettered his tally of seven league goals this season and his link-up play has come on leaps and bounds this year.
Palmer was the subject of a six-figure offer from ambitious non-league outfit Wrexham last week – a bid that the Dons duly rebuffed.
It’s not hard to see why. With goals already hard to come by right now, Wimbledon just simply wouldn’t cope without Palmer if he were to be prised away from Plough Lane.
The Epsom-born striker was at the heart of everything that was good about the Dons attacking play on Tuesday night – even if the goals once again evaded him and his team-mates.
Wimbledon have already wrapped up the loan signings of Terry Ablade and Tomas Kalinauskas this month, with Robinson confirming after the Pompey stalemate that no more incoming are expected.
The best bit of business the Dons could do in the remainder of the month is keeping hold of Palmer.
Anthony Hartigan has been a revelation for Wimbledon this season after his short stint on loan at Newport last year.
The Welsh midfielder has been virtually ever-present and struck up an effective partnership with Dons skipper Alex Woodyard. But he was again conspicuous in his absence in midweek – with the Dons sorely missing his passing arsenal and set-piece wizardry.
Whilst George Marsh has stepped in and performed admirably alongside Woodyard, Hartigan offers another dimension to the Dons’ play and could have made all the difference against an unimpressive Portsmouth side.
A WIDE BERTH
Jack Rudoni is the Dons’ joint top-scorer this term with seven goals, but he was largely absent from proceedings on Tuesday night.
After popping up in the box to thrust a half-volley pretty much straight at Bazunu in the opening 90 seconds, Rudoni was pretty much starved of the ball.
It was a similar story for Dapo Mebude, who also struggled to impact the game.
Wimbledon struggled to bring their two wide attackers into the game. Ayoub Assal was also introduced late on but he too struggled to make any sort of impact on the game on a rare quiet night for some of the Dons’ deadliest stars.
Following Tuesday night’s stalemate, the Dons have now failed to find the net in their last five games.
Although there have been mitigating factors, such as Covid and match postponements, Rudoni’s last-gasp goal in the 2-2 draw at Wycombe was the last time Wimbledon scored.
Since then, the Dons have slid down the table and been dumped out of the FA Cup by non-league Boreham Wood. In truth, they didn’t exactly show much of a clinical edge against Pompey.
Ablade and Kalinauskas have arrived this month to bolster Wimbledon’s attacking ranks, but it’s a big ask for them to find the goals in their first real stint of senior football. The only saving grace for Dons fans is that Robinson oversaw a similar period last year.
When goals were seemingly at a premium, Robinson’s young charges suddenly couldn’t stop scoring and pretty much stormed their way to League One survival.
Dons fans will be hoping that he can make lightning strike twice – because Wimbledon desperately need to end their barren run sooner rather than later if they are to start moving back up the table and away from trouble.
PICTURES: LUCY DIXON
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