By Steve Manning

Steve kicks off his first Big Match Preview with his unique view of the teams and the stats that matter, just another 45 games to go.

Cambridge United v The Dons

Venue: The Abbey Stadium (capacity: 8,127 – 4,376 seated)

Competition: Sky Bet League One – Match Day: 1 of 46


Previous meetings: 4

Wins – Cambridge 0 The Dons 4

Draws – None

Goals – Cambridge 1 The Dons 12


The Dons kick off their 2022/23 season on the road to Cambridge United, in an eagerly anticipated league opener for Liam Manning’s men and will go there backed by more than 1,000 supporters for the sixth consecutive away fixture.

Both sides have dipped their toes into the transfer market over the summer, with the U’s signing young goalkeeper James Holden – who was born in Milton Keynes – following his release from Reading’s Under-23’s, as well as Bristol City’s Gambian striker Saikou Janneh for an undisclosed fee.

Of the departures from Cambridge, the biggest one that will be felt the most is Wes Hoolahan’s, the 40-year-old former Irish International called time on his career at the end of the 21/22 season.

The U’s are, however, looking like they are a settled squad though, and they will surely be aiming to improve on their 14th place finish in League One from last season.

The Dons have undergone a more extensive rebuild this summer with 13 departures (including 4 loans) with 12 (3 loans) in through the doors at Stadium MK– at the time of writing.

The Darling, and Twine money has been re-invested wisely, helping to facilitate the moves for Jack Tucker, Ethan Robson, Conor Grant, Dawson Devoy, Darragh Burns, Will Grigg, Matt Dennis, Bradley Johnson, and Nathan Holland.

Incomings on loan have seen Chelsea pair Henry Lawrence, and Jamie Cumming (his second spell), and Aston Villa’s Louie Barry – after receiving a glowing reference from Kaine Kesler-Hayden about his experiences The Dons.

How The Dons Could Line-Up:

With fitness doubts over Daniel Harvie, and Mo Eisa, as well as a hamstring problem for Tennai Watson, mean it could be a start for either Brooklyn Ilunga or Jack Davies at left-back. Henry Lawrence could be in-line for his Dons debut at right back, as well.

Up front Will Grigg, or Matt Dennis will fill the lone striker slot, as the Dons turn to a 4-2-3-1 formation that has seen success in the past at MK1.

Possible Dons XI: (4-2-3-1)


Lawrence, O’Hora, Tucker, Lewington (c)

Smith, Devoy

Holland, Grant, Burns


Note: If Dean Lewington should feature against Cambridge United, he will become the all-time leading appearance maker for one club in the EFL. Appearance 771 will take him clear of current joint record holder John Trollope on 770, who set the record for Swindon Town in 1980.

How The U’s Could Line-Up:

Cambridge have been known to mix up their formations for different opponents, they are also very attack minded as well.

Their reliance on wingbacks could see them opt to go with a 3-5-2 formation, which Mark Bonner used on several occasions during their return to the third tier last Season.

Possible Cambridge XI:


Jones – Taylor (c) – Okedina

Williams – Digby – May – Worman – Dunk

Smith, Janneh.

One’s To Watch:

Dawson Devoy (The Dons)

The talented Irish youth international will pose Cambridge real problems if he is allowed the time, and space to dictate the pace of the game.

The midfield maestro possesses the ability to open the opposition with defence-splitting passes to his attackers, with consistent accuracy.

His keenness to get forward and join in his side’s attacking foray’s will benefit the Dons against The U’s, and hopefully it will pay dividends for Liam Manning’s men in this opener and help to set the tone for the season to come, for the Dubliner.

Sam Smith (Cambridge United)

Smith has been on the radar of The Dons this summer having had him watched on several occasions, which has led to speculation surrounding a possible future bid for the Cambridge striker.

Smith netted 15 times last season as he helped his side to mid-table safety, given that he featured in a side finding their feet in the third tier, his goals tally has seen interest surface in him from several EFL clubs of late.

He is a goal threat for Mark Bonner’s team from inside – or outside – of the 18-yard penalty box, and in my opinion is clearly one to keep an eye on with his ability to beat his man in one-on-one situations.

Score Prediction:

Cambridge United 1 – The Dons 3

I see Liam Manning’s Dons taking the points in this opening day encounter. The Dons have yet to lose to Cambridge either home, or away, in league action to date, and that is not about to change in my opinion.

I’ll go for Matt Smith, Nathan Holland, and Will Grigg as The Dons goal scorers.

Match Odds: (supplied by Oddschecker)

Cambridge United win – 13/5

Draw – 23/10

The Dons win – 10/11

The Dons to win 3-1 – 14/1

(*odds subject to change.)

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my debut match preview for the MKDSA, enjoy the game from wherever you’re taking it in from, and hopefully by quarter to five this evening, we will be celebrating three opening points on the board for Liam, and the boys.

Next up: The Dons v Sutton United – Carabao Cup first round preview.

Until Next Time, SM.

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