By Jon Harries
Saturday saw 4th v 3rd in the League as the Dons travelled to the Stadium of Light to face a Sunderland side that have had a few turbulent weeks on and off the pitch. New manager Alex Neil had to find a way of getting the belief back in the squad against a team high on confidence with only one defeat since the turn of the year. The game started with the edge you would expect with so much on the line. Mo Eisa pounced on a mistake to force a save from Patterson, then Parrott had one tipped over the bar by the Back Cats stopper 20 minutes later. The Dons though were largely in control of the game with Coventry and McEachran winning the battle in midfield and Sunderland seemed void of ideas. Half time and goalless.
The second half began with Sunderland getting forward quicker and a ball across the box deserved to be finished by someone, but It was the away side that took the lead through Mo Eisa, a phenomenal ball through by McEachran and Mo didn’t even break stride to slot home.
Sunderland then equalised through a deft header from Ross Stewart, getting in between Darling and O’Hora for the only time in the game for his 19th of the season. Shortly after a free kick to Sunderland nearly put them ahead, the ball finding its way out to Matete only to be blazed over the bar. Then Connor Wickham entered the pitch to break Black Cat hearts, it was almost like it was written in the stars. Parrott won the ball and did all the legwork, committing and beating defenders with ease to tee up the striker who slotted under the GK for his first Dons goal. A crucial one that cemented third position given teams below us minus Sunderland all picked up points. This team are something special, aren’t they?
A midweek trip to The Valley is in store next for Manning’s Men then against a Charlton side that has certainly underperformed throughout the season. Nigel Adkins started the season and after a very slow start was given his marching orders after abject performances including getting booed off the pitch in the reverse fixture at SMK. Johnnie Jackson was appointed as the interim manager and enjoyed success…… until he got the job permanently and that’s where it’s gone stale.
Injuries and performances have dipped, and Saturday saw former manager Karl Robinson and his promotion chasing Oxford give them a lesson in clinical finishing with Matty Taylor x2, Sam Baldock, and Cameron Brannigan scoring to condemn Charlton to their 3rd defeat in a row, in addition defender Sean Clare also got sent off to make the day worse.
The Charlton squad has talent. Sam Lavelle and Jason Pearce in defence, Ben Purrington at LB, Alex Gilbey and Ben Watson in midfield and Connor Washington, Jayden Stockley and Chuks Aneke up top. They should be doing better.
The Man in Focus is familiar with the MK fanbase. Last season’s Player of the Year Scott Fraser. Sold in the summer to Ipswich he was either not used in his right position or just not used as he failed to adjust to his new surroundings and was sold to Charlton in January. The Scot who scored 14 goals and 6 assists for the Dons in 44 appearances he likes to be the centre of attention, demanding the ball and looking to be the spark. He likes a penalty, not missing one at his time in Milton Keynes, but he does come with a temper so it’s about motivating him the right way.
EDITOR – Fraser tested positive for Covid at the weekend against Oxford, so there is a possibility he may not be ready for this game.
Predicted Line Up
Kesler – O’Hora – Darling – Lewington
Coventry – Smith – Kasumu
Toby Lock reported on Sunday Daniel Harvie is to serve a two-match suspension for 10 yellow cards and as much as I like Ilunga this isn’t the game for him. Both Watson and McEachran limped off on Saturday, plus there is rotation normally in the front 3 which is harsh on Parrott. Dan Kemp is an option at LB, but he wasn’t involved Saturday. I predict a 2-0-win Eisa and Smith with the goals but I’m expecting a reaction from Charlton. Much like Sunderland their fans demand a certain standard of performance at home so expect more energy.