By Jon Harries
Last Saturday Ipswich Town turned up to Stadium MK with just short of 7k fans. The game promised much with Ipswich winning 6 of their 8 games under new boss Kieran McKenna, the Dons with one defeat in L1 since the turn of the year. The Dons started the game brightly forcing Ipswich on the back foot early on. Ipswich then grew into the game with Kayden Jackson forcing a great save from Jamie Cumming. The Dons responded with Walton having to make two saves before the break, Twine with the pick of the pair with an acrobatic effort tipped over the bar.
The second half saw Ipswich turn the screw and dominate possession, pushing the Dons back and forcing several corners but with no effect.
James Norwood and Macauley Bonne were brought on for extra firepower for the Tractor Boys but had little to no influence on the game. The best moment of the game was right near the end, first substitutes Boateng and Wickham forced saves from Walton then in what was one of the last kicks of the game, Twine lined up a free kick with Darling providing the distraction for the Ipswich goalkeeper, it was all for nothing, but Walton saved fairly comfortably to preserve a point. Probably the right result, although with all but Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday dropping points it feels to some degree like a missed opportunity to solidify our play off slot.
Saturday sees a long trip up North to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland in a 3rd vs 4th clash at the time of writing. To say Sunderland have had a few interesting weeks would be an understatement. Sacking Lee Johnson after a 6-0 mauling at the hands of Bolton, signing Jermaine Defoe on Deadline Day then losing to relegation threatened Doncaster and Cheltenham respectively.
They do though have a manager in place for Saturday (unfortunately) in former Preston and Norwich City manager Alex Neil. This is the first time the Scot has managed below the top two tiers in England but has fantastic pedigree gaining promotion with the Canaries to the Promised Land of the Premiership. He has a huge task building confidence in this fragile squad, but IMHO has all the tools to be a success in what probably is the highest pressured job in L1. His first game was a 1-1 draw at Opponent, a solid result but not enough to lift them above us.
Anthony Patterson started in goal on Saturday, an academy product of Sunderland, and with 18-year-old Callum Doyle having a fantastic time in defence on loan from Manchester City. Trai Hume is one to watch in the future at RB and in midfield Alex Pritchard has been watching Twine free kicks, scoring two in the last two games. Dan Neil is another one to watch in midfield adding goals and steel to the midfield. Jack Clarke (loan from Tottenham) and Patrick Roberts provide width and pace in abundance and the already mentioned Defoe has been drafted in to take the pressure off the Man in Focus.
Ross Stewart has settled into L1 like a duck to water. 18 goals and an assist in 32 matches has made Sunderland very competitive this season and he scores a variety of goals. Headers, running in behind the defence, or like in August being in the right place at the right time at Stadium MK in the reverse 2-1 win for the Black Cats. He scored a hattrick live on Sky away at Wycombe earlier in the season and “the Loch Ness Drogba” is capable of being a menace to a defence that has looked more solid in recent weeks. Able to bring others into play he’s a more mobile upgrade to Charlie Wyke, who moved onto Wigan in the summer and everyone at the Dons wishes Charlie well in his ongoing issues that saw him collapse during training with Wigan.
Predicted Line Up
Kesler – O’Hora – Darling – Lewington – Harvie
Coventry – McEachran
Corbeanu – Eisa -Twine
Two changes for me. The Kesler/Corbeanu combination hasn’t been released yet and I’m excited to see it, and up top Mo had a weekend off essentially (on the bench) so motivation shouldn’t be a problem. My heart says a win is possible, even with 30k backing the Black Cats but I’d take a 1-1 draw. Eisa with the goal. This next month is pivotal IMHO to our ambitions come the end of the season. This is where the possibilities are endless.