By Jon Harries
Saturday was probably one of the most boring performances that I have watched in some time. After watching Tuesday night and the performance against Peterborough I was more than hopeful of a similar performance against a side that hasn’t won in 6 games.
Although not pretty on the eye as it was two teams looking to get some much-needed points, it was a very frustrating first half where the wind obviously helped Plymouth to some small degree assert their authority. The second half started very positively for the Dons but again we conceded first to a well worked goal by Ryan Hardie and in fairness to Plymouth they sat back and absorbed the pressure that we put them under more than comfortably. Yet again there was extraordinarily little or no final end product as is normally the case when we are behind. The last 2 games we haven’t conceded early which is a positive, but the next step is consistency in performances and results, it was certainly a game full of frustration.
Our Boxing Day opponents Bristol Rovers will be coming into the game having had 10 days rest due to members of playing staff showing symptoms of Covid-19 and there will be a familiar face in the away dugout in Paul Tisdale, you could say this is the Apprentice vs the Teacher, in fact it was Paul Tisdale that brought Russell Martin to the club in January 2018. At the time we were struggling for fit defenders and Martin answered the call helping the Dons from play-off obscurity to last day heroics against Mansfield, so in some respects we have Paul Tisdale to thank for our current manager, although Tisdale may not see it like that.
Their last fixture was a 3-0 home win against our opponents from Saturday Plymouth and Tisdale is now starting to get results after taking over from Ben Garner. After a tricky start with an away defeat to Swindon and a draw against Wigan, Bristol Rovers are now starting to add goals to their game. A 6-0 home win to Darlington in the FA Cup suddenly lit the touch paper and was backed up by 4-2 away win at Opponent before their performance against Plymouth prior to getting locked down.
Their squad is useful at this level, Anssi Jaakkola and Jordi van Stappershoef are battling for the goalkeeper number one spot a bit like the Nicholls & Fisher scenario here at SMK. Captain Max Ehmer and Luke Leahy are particularly good full backs in League 1 and Alfie Kilgour is a very tidy centre back and would be a very welcome addition to any team at this level. Former Don Ed Upson is the midfield anchor that allows Rovers to express themselves. Zain Westbrooke is a very solid acquisition from Coventry City with a variety of passing that Sam Nicholson and Brandon Hanlan can exploit up front with their pace and trickery, Hanlan was snapped up after failing to agree a new contract with Gillingham. The former Charlton youth product has 5 goals in 15 appearances this season and it is deadly in the six-yard box. Pace is his biggest asset and when one on one with a goalkeeper he always hits the target. This will be a big test for Keogh and Lewington and positional sense will be key.
Predicted Line Up
Williams – O’Hora – Keogh – Lewington – Harvie
Kasumu – Surman – Fraser
This is a game where we will have to assert our authority early, and If we can replicate the performance against Peterborough at the start of the game then I see no reason why a 3-1 home win is not possible.
Much will depend on the control in midfield from Surman and Kasumu and the service to Fraser, Morris, and Jerome will be key. It’s now time for consistency in performances and positive results especially over this busy Christmas period.
Merry Christmas Dons Fans
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