By Luke Payne, reproduced with kind permission from MK Dons Worldwide on Facebook.
Luke makes a welcome return to the team after a short absence, he’s been running his expert eye over the proceedings from Fratton Park, here are his ratings.
After a poor run of form that cost Liam Manning his job, we desperately needed to get some points on the board. However, very few people thought that result would come against top-half side Portsmouth, especially with the game being at Fratton Park. In the end it was a pleasant surprise seeing the Dons come out 2-0 winners which seems to have brightened spirits among both the squad and the fans. Here’s how I rated the players after our 2-0 victory away at Portsmouth:
Cumming – 7: Made a number of saves across the 90 minutes though most of these were pretty routine. Made an impressive double save early on to prevent us conceding to the first big chance of the game. Reasonable distribution and was on his toes ready to get involved whenever we needed him.
Watson – 6.5: Starting to look a bit more like the player he was last season. Tough in a tackle and composed on the ball, Watson protected Tucker well on the right side of our defence. Did have a couple of dodgy moments in the second half but he recovered well on both occasions. A quietly professional performance from the wingback overall.
Tucker – 6.5: Looked the shakiest of our centre-backs but always seemed to do just about enough to stop Portsmouth creating any clear cut chances. Tried a few over the top balls but wasn’t quite accurate enough with them. Had his big moment in the second half when he got on the end of Grant’s ball into the box following a corner routine. Tucker tried to shoot but his effort got blocked by O’Hora. Fortunately the ball fell back to Tucker and he managed to find the net on his second attempt which put us 2-0 up after 64 minutes. Seemed to be the target of Portsmouth’s attacks in the second half but he dealt with everything thrown at him.
O’Hora – 7: A very professional display from the captain at the heart of our defence. Won a lot of headers and challenges throughout the game with no fuss. Organised the defence well and kept our passing at a reasonable tempo when we had longer spells of possession.
Jules – 6.5: Looks to have found his confidence again after a short break from the side. Put in a number of challenges and protected the box well. Decided to take one for the team in the first half, sliding in to wipe out a Portsmouth forward before he could make it into the box. Jules received a yellow card for his efforts. Helped to close out Portsmouth as they looked to get back into the game late on.
Harvie – 6.5: Defensively sound and managed to keep his marker quiet despite the Portsmouth man’s best efforts. Looked comfortable on the ball and got himself into some good positions but his crossing left a lot to be desired. Did try to pick out Grant with a cutback at 2-0 up but the opposition managed to intercept and clear their lines.
McEachran – 6.5: Seemingly more settled in the midfield after giving multiple penalties away in recent weeks. Broke up the play well and acted as a pivot between defence and attack. Read the game brilliantly at times including on one occasion where he picked up the ball in the middle third of the pitch and instantly played Grant through on goal. Then took the resulting corner which he played into Grant who went on to set up Tucker for our second goal. Was also the corner taker for our first goal.
Johnson – 7: One of his better games in a Dons shirt. Always seemed to pop up in the right place at the right time, including for our opening goal where he got on the end of a Grant cross to head in the opener after 34 minutes. Could’ve had another chance at goal shortly afterwards but he tried to go for a diving header instead of volleying it and got his technique all wrong. Most of his passing was pretty safe but it reduced the amount of mistakes in possession he was making.
Grant – 7.5 (TOP DON): Very quiet in the first half but was solid defensively, protecting Watson and Tucker well. However, his one major contribution of the half was a fantastic cross that he whipped in for Johnson to finish. Had a chance to double our lead in the second half but should’ve done better with his one-on-one, allowing Griffiths to make the save. Have to respect his confidence for going for the shot but he had Eisa free on his left who would’ve had an open goal. Luckily for him we scored our second goal of the game from the resulting corner instead. Technically got the assist for the second goal as well, improvising well to redirect a bobbling ball towards Tucker who eventually went on to score. Continued with his good defensive work until he came off after 86 minutes for Robson.
Holland – 5.5: Played the ball about nicely but had very little impact on the game and simply wasn’t involved enough at either end of the pitch. Questionable defensive work at times but was in the right positions to prevent Portsmouth from overloading our left wing. Was more involved than Grant in the first half, but rarely got the ball into the final third. Managed to have a shot in the second half but he hit it miles off target. It just wasn’t his day and he was the first substitution we made, making way for Barry after 81 minutes.
Eisa – 6.5: Looked lively all game but wasn’t able to fashion any shooting opportunities for himself. He did however put Portsmouth under pressure with some relentless pressing and he often forced mistakes from their players. Displayed some fancy footwork on a couple of occasions to get out of tricky spots and his confidence on the ball allowed us to play higher up the pitch. Could’ve had a goal if Grant played the ball across to him when the pair ran through on goal with only the keeper to beat but Grant tried to do it solo. Likely would’ve been subbed off at the very end for Grigg but the fulltime whistle went before the change was made.
Barry – 6 (SUB): A late change to give us a bit more energy on the left wing. Pressed well and tried to get us up the pitch. Did make one nice turn that could’ve resulted in another chance but his marker pulled him down for a free-kick instead.
Robson – 6 (SUB): An unusual cameo as an inside forward for the central midfielder. Brought on to defend and slow down the play and did exactly that.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6.5: It wasn’t the smoothest performance and we were blessed by Portsmouth’s lack of ability to shoot but it was one of those games where we just did enough to get the three points. One moment of quality and a short scramble in the box was enough to secure the win on this occasion. With this being said, it was a huge victory in terms of team morale. The players were playing with smiles on their faces which is something we’ve not seen since last season.
Perhaps the players enjoyed playing without the pressure of their manager’s job on the line or perhaps it was just a good day at the office. Time will tell. It certainly proves to any potential candidates for the manager’s job that we are capable of pulling off results at this level.
All we can do for now is look forward to our next fixture which is our Round of 16 Carabao Cup tie at home to Leicester on Tuesday.
Bring on the Foxes!
If you’ve read this far then thank you! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the game and I hope you enjoyed the read.