Mansfield Town’s lack of penetration up front left them having to be content with a third successive 1-1 draw at One Call Stadium on Saturday.
It was telling that the only goal for Adam Murray’s men came from a set piece, albeit a rather splendid one as Chris Clements curled one in from 25 yards.
But, otherwise, manager Murray’s lone striker system simply didn’t work as an increasingly frustrated Matt Green was given scraps to work from. The service to him was dreadful as was the support play and it left him isolated and impotent.
Also, Adam Chapman, so influential when on song from the deep midfield position, had an afternoon to forget as little he tried came off for him.
Clements did his best to inspire the side, particularly in the first half, with an eye-catching performance both with and without the ball.
He might even have snatched a win deep in stoppage time at the end with another free kick, but this time it dropped just wide and he had to be content with a man of the match award.
That left the Dons unbeaten away from home and Stags still looking for their first home win.
In truth it would have been harsh on Wimbledon had they not taken at least a point home.
Physical and direct they may have been, but it was the more effective style on the day and gave plenty of work for Mansfield’s defence.
The Dons started the better and grabbed a sixth minute lead, appropriately from a long ball launched by keeper James Shea.
George Francomb took control of Ryan Tafazolli’s headed clearance and slipped a pass into the path of Tom Elliott, who was onside and showed lethal finishing as he slipped the ball under Brian Jensen.
Elliott and Ade ‘The Beast’ Akenfenwa will prove a real handful for League Two defences all season and, with the talents of Adebayo Azeez to call on from the bench, the Dons could surprise a few people this season.
Mansfield needed a quick reply, and it came thanks to Paul Robinson’s foul on Clements which gave him the chance to lift his free kick over the wall and curl it just inside the left post on 15 minutes.
The goal lifted Mansfield and they had a couple of other first half chances as Tafazolli sent a header wide at the far post from a corner when he should have hit the target and Krystian Pearce had a powerful volley blocked just in front of goal.
A well-contested second half saw few real chances, though Reggie Lambe did have a shot headed off the goal line by Robinson after Green had done well to beat Shea to a through ball and set up Lambe with the keeper out of position.
Soon after it took some brave goalkeeping from Jensen in the battle of the ‘Beasts’ as his nickname namesake Akinfenwa was gifted a chance by a short Tafazolli backpass, Jensen down as quick as a flash at the big striker’s feet.
With Clements’ influence fading and the visitors always looking the more likely to snatch it, it was down to the back four, particularly Tafazolli and Pearce, to step up to the plate and help preserve a point.
The visitors ended the game with 10 men when sub Lyle Taylor was sent off for an elbow on Nicky Hunt in the fourth minute of stoppage time. But it came too late to make a difference for Mansfield.
Referee Ross Joyce was quick with his card and whistle all afternoon, booking seven others, with four cards for the Stags for Adam Chapman, Mitch Rose, Green and Nicky Hunt leaving Rose and Hunt just one more from suspension.
Boss Murray, while disappointed not to win it, tried to look on the bright side afterwards and said that, when giving an average display like that, the most important thing was not to lose.
While being very true, Stags have have now spilled six points of a possible nine at home already and need to fire on all cylinders against visiting Crawley Town this Saturday with fans calling on Murray to go with two strikers.
If Mansfield fail to win this Saturday it will mean a very promising start is starting to quickly fade with a tough trip to Luton looming the weekend after.
Saturday is not must-win by any means but it’s a victory Stags could dearly do with.
One bright note came after the final whistle as Akinfenwa came back out before showering to meet local youngsters for photographs and autographs which was a lovely gesture by the big man.