By Jon Harries
The “Possession Kings of Europe” … bottom of League 1 but the moral of the story is, possession doesn’t get you points, and 2 points from 15 isn’t anywhere near a good start, and with the next five games in the space of 15 days things need to turn around quickly starting at Stadium MK this Saturday against Gillingham.
Last Saturday the Dons travelled to Fratton Park looking for their first win in the league and indeed an away league win, a period that now stretches back over 13 months. Disaster struck after two minutes with Tom Naylor powering in an uncontested header from a corner, but the Dons didn’t throw in the towel or give up hope and won a penalty when Louis Thompson was fouled in the area, and thankfully Scott Fraser stepped up and scored his first goal of the season from the spot. Then from another corner, another penalty conceded, this time George Williams the culprit for a needless infringement that saw him more intent on the player than the ball, and despite protestations from the Dons players Ellis Harrison finally stepped up and dispatched the spot kick into the net with Lee Nicholls getting a touch and looking annoyed he didn’t save it, and he probably should have done.
The second half was, all Dons who huffed and puffed but in reality, Sam Nombe had our only genuine chance of the half. Such a dominant performance deserved more, but not being ruthless in both boxes again cost us, but we now have a good opportunity with the games coming thick and fast to convert that possession into points on the board, if not and even at this early stage to the season things will quickly start to have a desperate feel to them.
Gillingham under the management of the larger than life Steve Evans have picked up where they left off pre-lockdown. With a bit of luck, they could potentially have finished in the play offs but on the whole their impressive season went under the radar. A loss at home to Hull City on the first day of the season has so far been the only stumbling block, and have since had back to back wins against Wigan and Blackpool, followed by a point away at Shrewsbury, and last Saturday they picked up another impressive 3 points at home to Oxford. Despite conceding a lot on the possession stats Gillingham went two up thanks to goals from Vadiene Oliver and Jacob Mellis. Daniel Agyei pulled one back for Oxford, but a more ruthless Gillingham made the points safe through man of the moment Jordan Graham. Don’t be surprised to see the men from Kent to sneak in the play offs come the end of the season.
Gillingham have a very well-constructed squad with Jack Bonham in goal who is a very underrated but competent goalkeeper, and with Ryan Jackson and Connor Ogilvie they have experienced defenders in a largely young defensive set up. Injured duo Stuart O’Keefe (ex MK Dons), and Kyle Dempsey are a pretty solid midfield although loanees Declan Drysdale and Josh Eccles (both Coventry) are doing a good job in their place.
There’s also a heavy North London influence in the squad, with loanees Zech Medley and Trea Coyle from Arsenal, and Christian Maghoma from Tottenham who are young and hungry individuals alongside versatile Tom O’Connor from Southampton. Jacob Mellis has plenty of lower League experience and up top, the options of Jordan Graham, Vadaine Oliver, and John Akinde can provide a headache in more ways than one.
When you think of a postman you expect him to deliver when it matters, with Jordan Graham at the minute you are getting a first-class service. He is given the freedom to roam amongst the front three and the former Wolves player has delivered five goals and two assists in eight games. Not afraid to cross or take on a defender the MK Dons defence are going to have to be sharp against a player at the top of his game and in top form.
Predicted Line up
Poole – Williams – Keogh – Lewington – Harvie
Kasumu – Thompson – Fraser
Morris – Jerome
Probably that’s our strongest 11 available but we really need to settle on partnerships to achieve success although as previously discussed five games in 15 days will probably mean some rotation to keep the squad at peak condition for the task ahead.
I predict a 1-1 draw as I believe we have a fairly respectable record against Gillingham at Stadium MK, but the Gills cannot be underestimated. They can be direct when needed but also have the players that can pass. I expect a close contest the first goal absolutely vital to any success, Morris to score.
Team News There appears to be no fresh injury concerns, but we can’t say for certain as there was no mention in the RM interview, and we can also only assume that Agard continues his rehabilitation, Poole and Harvie return from International duty.
Editor – Many thanks to Jon once again for another in depth preview of the game, but our opinions differ as I believe that finally our possession will finally tell against a Gillingham side set up to hit you on the break. I’ve been wrong before, but I take the Dons to score three goals, so I’ll go for a 3-1 victory.
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