By Luke Payne by kind permission of the MK Dons Worldwide on Facebook
Our cup run is at an end. Premier League side Leicester came to Stadium MK and brought most of their top talent with them. We did our best to hold them off but ultimately it wasn’t enough and Bradley Johnson’s Dons side fell to a 3-0 defeat. Here’s how I rated the players after our encounter with the former premier league champions:
Cumming – 6: Did as much as he could to keep Leicester out so can’t criticise him too much for the goals. He made a number of saves but didn’t have much luck, with one of his better stops rebounding to Tielemans who opened the scoring after 18 minutes. His kicking did let him down a little bit and he rarely found his intended target with his long balls forward.
Watson – 6: Had to be on his toes at all times to deal with ex-Don Harvey Barnes and he was caught out a couple of times in the early stages of the game, including for their first goal where Barnes was able to run in behind and play it across for Vardy who got a shot on goal before the rebounded Tielemans effort found the net. Watson found a new level of composure after that and just about kept Barnes quiet. He moved across to right centre back at halftime to accommodate Lawrence coming onto the pitch. Wasn’t quite as impressive from there and came off after 61 minutes so we could switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Tucker – 6: Like Watson he had his work cut out for him but he put in a lot of effort to limit Leicester’s shooting opportunities. Unfortunately he was at fault for the second goal having been turned a couple of times by Perez, who then had space to find the bottom corner which made it 2-0 after 29 minutes. Despite this he kept soldiering on and put in a number of challenges until halftime when he was replaced by Lawrence.
O’Hora – 6.5: Wasn’t fazed by the calibre of the opposition and put in a typically resolute performance. Did lose a couple of battles but he prevented a lot of Leicester attacks as well. Wasn’t a standout performer but quietly went about doing his job, leading the team by example.
Jules – 7 (TOP DON): Got stuck in wherever he could and single-handedly cut out a lot of attacks. He put in countless blocks across the 90 minutes as well. Carried the ball out of defence very well numerous times and was the clear standout player of the team. Does need to improve his communication with Harvie as they leave a man free at the back post at least once a game.
Harvie – 6: Had a good first half, keeping Leicester chances on the left to a minimum. Made a couple of runs in behind that put him through on goal. However the first one was offside and the second he was questionably taken down by Faes after the Leicester man mis-controlled a ball played back to him. Seemed to lose a bit of energy in the second half and got caught out a few times, including for the third goal where he found himself too high up the pitch which allowed Leicester to overload down the left. This resulted in a cross from Castagne and a headed goal by Vardy that made it 3-0 after 50 minutes.
Barry – 5.5 (SUB): Was a direct replacement for Grant in the central attacking midfield role but he didn’t see much of the ball. Pressed fairly well but just couldn’t get a foot in the game.
Devoy – 5.5: Tried his best but simply wasn’t ready to come up against the likes of Tielemans and Soumare. Got caught in possession a number of times and did sometimes pick the wrong passes. With this being said he did play a great cross into the box late on for Dennis and he did put in a lot of work from a defensive point of view.
McEachran – 6.5: Looked a lot more settled in the midfield than Devoy and was far more effective in breaking up the play. Played the ball about nicely and even did a roulette turn around Vardy at one point. He ensured that Leicester would have to work hard if they wanted to break us down fully and we lost what little control over the midfield we had when he came off for Smith after 61 minutes.
Grant – 6: Didn’t play badly but just couldn’t get involved in our attacking play, with most of our moves in the first half bypassing him entirely. Was solid again from a defensive standpoint, closing down wherever he needed to and getting stuck in on occasion. Got on the ball a bit more partway through the second half when we switched to the 4-2-3-1 but he wasn’t able to get us very far up the pitch. Came off for Barry after 74 minutes.
Eisa – 6: Struggled to get service for large parts of the game but popped up a couple of times to test the Leicester defence. However, he struggled to shield the ball from the opposition defenders and he wasn’t able to test Ward as he rarely got his shot away on time. Did have some nice linkup play with Grigg across the 90 minutes, but Eisa gave it away more often than not. Moved to right wing when we switched to the 4-2-3-1 but saw very little of the ball and came off for Dennis after 78 minutes.
Grigg – 6.5: Wasn’t able to fashion any shooting opportunities but did a lot in terms of getting us up the pitch in the first place. He was able to hold off the Leicester defenders a number of times which allowed us to pivot around him and get a few bodies up the pitch. Did very well with the scraps he was working with but just couldn’t break through the final line of defence. He moved to right wing for the final few minutes when Dennis came on.
Lawrence – 5.5 (SUB): Wasn’t as involved as he could’ve been in either of the two formations used in the second half. Did a bit of defensive work as was his duty but on the occasions he did push forward, he was very slow to track back.
Holland – 6 (SUB): Went straight out to the left wing as we switched formations but didn’t get to do much attacking. Played the ball about nicely and helped defend the left wing.
Smith – 5 (SUB): Brought on to freshen up the midfield but didn’t have the desired impact at all. He lost the ball needlessly on a few occasions and didn’t really add anything different to the team.
Dennis – 6 (SUB): Didn’t press anywhere near enough but he almost created our biggest chance of the game late on. Devoy played in a cross and Dennis quickly realised he wasn’t in a position to get enough power on his header to shoot, so he tried to head it back across goal for Grigg, but Ward came out quickly to smother the ball as well as any hope Dons had of scoring in this fixture.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6: Despite losing 3-0, this wasn’t an awful performance. We were on the back foot for the entire game but there was a lot of good defending going on, we just couldn’t take the extra step of getting down the other end and creating some chances. We did well to limit the likes of Vardy, Barnes and Tielemans as much as we did, given the level of ability they possess. The combination of Grigg and Eisa looked quite good even though they couldn’t get past Faes and co. and they would likely be more effective against League One opposition.
The only major concern is lack of depth. We have a lot of players in our squad but there aren’t many that possess the quality to actually improve the performances when they come off the bench. There were five subs used but none of them did a better job than the player they replaced. Then there are players like Tucker and Grant who are starting to settle in which is great, but they’re not going to be reliable options every single game. Johnson did an alright job managing the team considering the situation we were in but it’s perfectly highlighted our biggest on pitch problem. Once a couple of players are missing from the side (in this particular case Johnson himself, Lewington and Burns), who’s left to make an impact when it really matters?
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!