THE outcome of League One’s race for promotion remains impossible to predict but at Bramall Lane a familiar pattern is beginning to emerge.
MK Dons, like so many clubs this season, arrived seemingly content to share the spoils with Danny Wilson’s side rather than try and snatch them from their grasp.
The fact the visitors, usually among the most attractive teams in England’s most competitive division, succeeded will only encourage others to do the same.
A situation which prompted Tony McMahon to predict that patience could prove to be the most potent weapon in Sheffield United’s armoury.
“People are coming here content to sit back and hit us on the counter,” the defender said. “That’s something we’ve had to get used to.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in the squad which hopefully could tip the balance in our favour because the most important thing now is to stay calm, concentrated and focused.
“A lot of the lads have played a lot of football. Even a youngster like Harry (Maguire) has got over 100 appearances under his belt.”
Second placed United, now three points behind Doncaster Rovers and four ahead of Brentford in sixth, face Crewe Alexandra tomorrow looking to extend their seven-game unbeaten sequence.
“Away from home we get a bit more time and space because teams come at us more,” added McMahon. “And that’s something we can really exploit. When they’re at home they’re under an obligation to push things a little bit more so we go to work in the gaps.
“It’s all about just keeping our cool and making a few mistakes as possible because we’re in a good position.
“If the league ended tomorrow then we’d be up but we all want the same thing and that’s to try and go on and win it.”
There was no lack of effort on United’s part. Nor, as the intricate passing move which spawned a good opportunity for McMahon towards the end of the opening period demonstrated, moments of quality and ingenuity.
But against opponents squeezing space and flooding bodies into midfield, the former Middlesbrough full-back’s wayward finish illustrated the source of United’s frustration.
Substitute Jonathan Forte, like Jamie Murphy returning from a groin injury, wasted an even better opening midway through the second.
On those occasions they did prise apart the Dons’ rearguard, United failed to produce a killer touch.
However, with the hosts keeping a sixth straight clean sheet and Karl Robinson’s charges gathering momentum following last week’s victory over Rovers, both manager’s preferred to dwell on the positives.
What they could not agree on, though, were the two genuine moments of controversy.
Robinson claimed Patrick Bamford had been denied a 76th minute penalty after tangling with United captain Michael Doyle.
Wilson, insisting the on-loan Chelsea forward was “rightly” cautioned for diving, described Shaun Williams’ trip on Ryan Flynn soon after as a “cast iron” spot-kick.
Referee Carl Boyeson, whose decision-making infuriated both camps at times, opted to award neither. “There were times when we didn’t know if it was our free-kick, their free-kick or Joe Bloggs’ free-kick,” complained Wilson. “And that was a frustration.”
“I’m pleased and frustrated at the same time,” Robinson, whose side remain 12th, admitted. “Pleased to again get something against one of the best teams but frustrated that we’ve had bad results before against those lower down.”
Dons grew in stature as the match progressed and began to create chances of their own.
United, though, could count themselves unfortunate not to be in front at the half-time break with Barry Robson twice going close and Dave Kitson heading straight at Ian McLoughlin.
Forte should have broken the deadlock soon after coming on but saw his shot expertly saved by the Dons goalkeeper before McLoughlin bravely blocked at Dominic Poleon’s feet during the closing stages to condemn United to another goalless draw at home following last month’s arm-wrestle with Leyton Orient.
“We created more chances than they did but unfortunately things just didn’t quite fall for us,” said McMahon. “But it was also important that we were able to pick up something because it keeps our run going. It’s good to have that type of consistency and we’ll all be working hard to try and make sure that stays the case.”