By Jon Harries
Three wins on the bounce and safety all but confirmed. Saturday’s trip to Burton looked very tough on paper against the form team in L1. With no changes to the side for the third game running, confidence in the squad was high. It was also a momentous occasion for Dean Lewington starting his 800th game for MK Dons. A monumental achievement that unfortunately hasn’t got the coverage it deserves in my opinion. The game at the Pirelli Stadium started with the away side asserting their control and winning a penalty with a handball in the area. Scott Fraser stepped up and converted for the second game in a row, from then on it was a controlled confident performance with no real threat from Burton. The second half was much the same and the second vital goal arrived after a corner was only partially cleared and Ethan Laird headed into the path of Warren O’Hora who placed a header into the top right corner of the net. Burton to their credit did rally and won a penalty of their own when Laird fouled in the box, Lucas Akins dispatched the penalty, but the Dons dug deep and saw out the remaining 10 minutes with relative ease.
Doncaster head to Milton Keynes still reeling from losing Darren Moore to Sheffield Wednesday and key man Ben Whiteman to Preston, and with no win in their last four games.
They do occupy a playoff spot after a very respectable season so far and have a couple of games in hand on some teams above them, in fact Moore had them third at one point in the season. On Saturday they were part of a mad 30 minute spell against Gillingham, 2 down to goals from Graham and Oliver they showed real grit and determination with James Coppinger the star of the show with a goal and an assist to get back in the game. Rovers too had to dig deep in the second half clearing a Kyle Dempsey shot off the line and withstanding constant pressure from the Gills. No doubt they will be nervously looking over their shoulders with Portsmouth and Blackpool looking to mount a late play off push in the final ten games.
Head coach Andy Butler has been thrown in at the deep end but has the respect of the squad that he is still part of. A squad made up of exciting Premier League talent like goalkeeper Ellery Balcombe, who saved two penalties in his second game against Lincoln, and Brad Halliday and Reece James provide energy up and down the flanks. Tom Anderson is the leader on the pitch and a no nonsense defender, in midfield Madger Homes is having a stellar season adding goals to his all round game. Josh Sims has been drafted in for goals and creativity on loan from Southampton and John Bostock was a surprising signing who has settled in very well. Up top Omar Bogle knows the lower leagues well and Tyreece John-Jules is getting much needed experience on loan from Arsenal.
I feel that it’s quite fitting that an EFL legend gets the main part of this piece, and James Coppinger is that man. The former Newcastle United trainee has spent 17 years at Doncaster and will go down as a fantastic servant. Much respected amongst the EFL community he has decided to hang up his boots at the end of the season. The midfielder is the heartbeat of the side able to create, score a free kick like the one against Hull earlier in the season and dictate play, the 40 year old maestro may possibly change his mind for one more shot at the Championship if that is the fate of Donny Rovers. With most appearances from the bench until recently he is certainly one to watch and just goes to show age is just a number.
Laird – O’Hora – Darling – Lewington – Sorinola
Surman – McEachran – O’Riley – Fraser
Why change a winning team?
I predict a 2-1 home win. I feel like we are getting back to our fluid best from around Christmas and with no real pressure apart from the expectation and standards that Russell Martin demands.
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