By Jon Harries
Wednesday night was an opportunity for the Dons to pounce back into the play off positions with victory at home to Plymouth live on Sky. We got off to the better start, Eisa pouncing on a Plymouth loose pass forcing a good save from Cooper. A few minutes later Scott Twine played a similar ball through on the right-hand side. Watson and Eisa made the same run with the RWB running onto the ball and calmly slotting the ball in for his first professional goal. Now to seize the moment……or so we thought. The only shot Plymouth had forced a decent Fisher save but nothing really to trouble the defence. One concern was Darling going off at halftime and was hopefully precautionary after pulling up after a lung busting run, but in Baldwin, we had an ample replacement.
Plymouth made two separate substitutions with Danny Mayor and Jordan Garrick brought on to inject creativity and pace into the Pilgrims, in fairness it worked almost immediately with corners and crosses bombarding the Dons defence. The pressure finally told when Connor Grant fired a ball through a crowd of players to equalise. Troy Parrott was brought on to support Eisa who was struggling to get into the game with almost devastating effect. Firstly, a shot blocked from distance, then a chance all his own making attacking the Plymouth defence at pace before crashing a shot off the crossbar with Cooper well beaten. Plymouth also hit the bar late on, but I believe a draw was the fair result and leaves the Dons a point outside the play offs.
Saturdays game v Oxford is a huge game. Not only is it a reunion with one of our most passionate managers in our short time, but we are also playing one of the most in form teams in the EFL. Unbeaten in their last 8 in the league it’s made even more impressive given their most recent bout of Covid 19 within the squad. Draws against high flying Rotherham and Sunderland followed by a narrow win away at Doncaster, Mark Sykes and James Henry getting the goals either side of a Brandon Horton equaliser securing a win which for the time being lifted them to 6th in the table. Usually known for a weak start and strong finish to their recent seasons, Oxford fans will be hoping the opposite doesn’t happen this season.
Goalkeeper Simon Eastwood has got the Number 1 recently after losing it at the back end of last season to academy graduate Jack Stevens. Jordan Thornily got promoted with Blackpool last season and was in the side that knocked out Oxford in the Play Off semi-finals last season (on loan from Blackpool). Elliott Moore is the next L1 defender that will surely play at a higher level. Midfield is their strongest position, Mark Sykes and Gavin Whyte are dribbling wingers that aren’t afraid to attack the by-line. Alex Gorrin is their anchor in midfield disrupting and distributing in equal measure allowing Herbie Kane, Cameron Brannagan, and Henry to support the Man in Focus.
Matty Taylor is the divisions “Fox in the Box”, and the ultimate fans wind up merchant. 7 goals in 18 appearances already this season suggests he’s a man in form but only if he gets the support and service. He isn’t the most physical of strikers, but his movement and anticipation are second to none. No doubt the back 3 will have to be on top form to keep him quiet.
Watson – Baldwin – O’Hora – Lewington – Harvie
Robson – McEachran – O’Riley
Twine – Parrott
I will be surprised if Darling’s hamstring recovers in two days’ time plus starting Parrott gives us a physical presence up top that we lack with Eisa in my opinion. Not to say he’s a bad player he just needs support. Each game v Oxford is cagey and tight; therefore, I’m going for a narrow 1-0 win for the Dons, Parrot with the goal. I fully expect a tactical game of football with the teams maybe starting the game conservatively. It will be a classy moment that decides it.