By Fan of the Year Jon Harries
It’s good to be back home, isn’t it? From pulling up in the car park to the fantastic Fans Bar and the atmosphere building pre-match. Going to your seat and speaking to fans that you see every other Saturday. The little things I’ve taken for granted in the past which enhance the “Matchday Experience”. The result did not go for us, but the day was special.
Liam Manning’s first game in charge couldn’t have been tougher, a visit from Sunderland to Stadium MK in front of a decent travelling support. With only a day with the squad my expectations were tempered a bit and the first half did nothing to change that. A scrappy and competitive first half with the Black Cats starting brightly. McGeady causing problems down the left forcing early pressure on the Dons defence. It felt like we were trying to play the “right way” and when it clicked, we were dangerous, Eisa just missing a ball into the box, Tennai Watson firing wide. The issue was we weren’t getting the front 4 involved enough in the first half. Troy Parrott cut a frustrated figure. Then Sunderland got the breakthrough just before half time. An Embleton shot from outside the box was parried by Andrew Fisher and Ross Stewart tucked away the rebound. The issue of who would replace Charlie Wyke seems to be an afterthought.
In the second half Sunderland came storming out of the blocks attacking with purpose and intensity. They scored again after a bit of pinball at the back the ball broke to Embleton in the box (possibly offside) who took a touch, sat Fisher down and buried it, but that seemed to ignite a reaction from home side. There seemed to be an all or nothing attitude and suddenly, the tide turned. Parrott was getting more involved in the game and gave the Dons a lifeline, finishing brilliantly after Ethan Robson won possession high up and slipped him in. Parrott was inches away from a cross come shot then nonchalantly tried to chip Burge who tipped over. Eisa then rounded Burge as the pressure was mounting but still the illusive equaliser evaded us. Game management was playing a part with Sunderland players going down and they had the opportunity to extend their lead when Darling fouled Stewart in the box. Lynden Gooch stepped up and struck a weak penalty that Fisher saved comfortably. Seven minutes added time passed without incident and ultimately defeat but most fans went home with a sense of hope for the rest of the season.
Tuesday night sees the visit of familiar opponents over the last few seasons Charlton Athletic. Managed by Nigel Adkins, an advocate of positivity with his daily tweets about walking the Addicks are much fancied to be battling near the top of the division with good reason. New owner Thomas Sandgaard has backed Adkins in the transfer market adding quality to the squad. Craig MacGillivray is a very good goalkeeper for the level. Jason Pearce is a real leader, Akin Famewo is one CB to keep an eye out for and Chris Gunter was at the Euros with Wales. Midfield General Ben Watson is the enforcer and former players Alex Gilbey and Jake Forster-Caskey provide the drive and passing respectively. Jayden Stockley is a nuisance in the air and Connor Washington puts himself about. They will want to get their season started like us on Tues night looking for their first win after a draw to Sheffield Wednesday and narrow defeat on Saturday to Oxford plus being knocked out of the League Cup in the first round.
The “One to Watch” is a new signing that hasn’t featured yet but has been a constant thorn in MK Dons side over the years. Charlie Kirk was signed late last week from Crewe Alexandra and is such a talented player that I’d have loved to see him grace Stadium MK more regularly. Able to create for others, produce a moment of magic himself and just be a constant threat down the left, he now must continue producing at a bigger club. Much will be expected of Kirk, particularly assisting Stockley with balls into the box something he undoubtedly possesses. Two goals in his last two visits to Milton Keynes is also something worth noting.
Martin – O’Hora – Darling – Jules – Harvie
O’Riley – Robson – Twine
Parrott – Eisa.
From the small cameo, Josh Martin could provide a different dimension down the right. He has a confidence that could force Kirk back defensively. There are partnerships building on Saturday that look like they’re getting stronger so no need for wholesale changes IMHO.
I predict a 2-1 win, Parrott and Eisa with the goals.
COYD see you Tuesday night.