By Luke Payne by kind permission of MK Dons Worldwide on Facebook
A new manager for Christmas and three points on the board shortly afterwards. Mark Jackson’s first game in charge saw Dons get a vital 1-0 win over Forest Green Rovers which consequently puts us above them in the table as well. Here’s how I rated the players after the positive result at Stadium MK:
Formation: 5-2-3 (Switched to 5-2-1-2 after 73 minutes then to 4-2-3-1 after 87 minutes).
GK – Cumming – 7.5: Was quite busy at times, making double saves on multiple occasions in the first half in addition to other important stops sprinkled across the match. He was on his toes at all times and read the game very well to come out and claim any crosses he deemed to be too close to his goal. His distribution was a little shaky at times but he kept us in the game during our poor spells.
RWB – Watson – 7: One of the standouts of the first half, defending well and contributing heavily to our build-up play as well. He won a lot of aerial battles and managed a few blocks and interceptions as well. Had a quieter second half and did make one or two small errors in possession but still a very solid showing overall.
RCB – Tucker – 6.5: Perhaps slightly controversial due to a couple of poor mistakes that nearly put us into trouble but with the exception of those this was the most composed performance we’ve seen from Tucker since he signed. Regularly controlled the ball in tricky areas and passed his way out of trouble. Most of the time he got this right and it worked as a good starting point for our build-up play. Got stuck in as much as he could. Still not the finished article but he’s certainly improving.
CB – O’Hora – 7: Quietly reliable as per usual. Put in a number of challenges and blocks across the 90 minutes and limited Matt to very little. Acted as the metronome for our possession play as we looked to play our way up the pitch. The tempo of play did slow down at times but this can be put down to lack of movement from the midfield and attacking players in front of the defence.
LCB – Jules – 7: Has restored his title as The Great Wall of Jules with his performance. Got stuck in and prevented Forest Green from breaking down the left multiple times, particularly in the second half. Did venture into the opposition half a couple of times which allowed us to push much further up the pitch. Moved to left back late on in the game as we switched to a 4-2-3-1 to close the game out. Stepped up massively in the late stages of the game, clearing countless balls into the box as we looked to secure the result in extra time.
LWB – Harvie – 6.5: Had a reasonable first half but was lacking massively with his final ball, wasting a few chances with poor crosses. However, his defensive work was solid and he would eventually turn up where it matters most. He took up his position on the edge of the box for a Dons corner and was on hand to collect the resulting clearance before rifling the ball into the bottom corner, giving us a 1-0 lead after 58 minutes. Came off for Barry after 87 minutes which allowed us to switch to a 4-2-3-1 and spent the remainder of the game stood up by the subs bench, supporting his teammate’s right up to the final whistle.
CM – Johnson – 6.5: The stronger of the starting midfield pairing and a lot of our attacks came through him at some point. Showed great vision at times to pick out our forward player and forced a save out of McGee from a free-kick in the first half. Mostly good with his break-up play but he did give away a lot of silly free-kicks and he needs to communicate more with McEachran as neither of them were prepared to drop a couple of yards to collect the ball when we had possession in our defensive third. One of his more consistent performances to date, although he did tail off a little bit towards the end of the match.
CM- McEachran – 5.5: Perhaps a little harsh but I think we’ve seen much stronger performances from him this season and he’s capable of a lot better. He was involved in some nice passages of play but wasn’t quite as effective as Johnson. Could’ve done with dropping a couple of yards to operate in the gap between defence and midfield to give us more options when we were playing out from the back. Mixed break-up play, sometimes able to slow down or stop the Forest Green attacks but was also caught flat-footed a number of times. Was the first to make way in the second half, coming off for Devoy after 64 minutes.
RF – Eisa – 6.5: A tough one to give a rating to. Had a lot of good link-up play but failed to capitalise on any of the chances he had. A couple of these were shots from relatively tight angles but he had enough service to do more. With that being said he did win the free-kick for our best opportunity of the first half as well as winning the corner for our goal. Tried to pick out Holland with a through ball in the second half but he put way too much on it. His defensive work was good for the most part, though he did leave Watson exposed a couple of times before we switched the formation which allowed Eisa to play more centrally. Very good pressing out of possession and ran himself into the ground to put pressure on the Forest Green players.
ST – Grigg – 6: Similarly to Eisa, he’s a difficult player to give a rating to. Saw a good amount of the ball and his link-up play was a real positive. However, he had a clear reluctance to shoot and ran himself into trouble a number of times where he could’ve had a shot on goal. Did have our best chance of the first half after McGee parried Johnson’s free-kick towards Grigg but the striker had his header saved at close range by the recovering Forest Green keeper. Eventually made way for Smith after 73 minutes as we switched to the 5-2-1-2 formation.
LF – Holland – 7.5 (TOP DON): The brightest spark of our attacking line-up, regularly dribbling past Forest Green players all over the pitch to increase the tempo of our attacks and create space around him. Won a number of corners for his efforts and kept the opposition defenders busy. Had a couple of shots to his name but his it was his build-up play that gives him Top Don for this fixture. He was our most effective route into the final third which allowed us to play on the front foot for the majority of the game. Partnered Eisa up front for a little bit when we switched to the 5-2-1-2 formation before reverting back to a more comfortable winger role in the 4-2-3-1 to see out the game. Did become a little predictable trying to dribble his way through the midfield in the closing stages of the game but battled till the end.
SUB – Devoy – 6.5: Operated as Johnson’s midfield partner for the final 25 minutes or so. Didn’t stand out at either end of the pitch but did the basics right and put a shift in, particularly in the final few minutes, putting a lot of pressure on the Forest Green players.
SUB – Smith – 6: Operated as a central attacking midfielder in both the 5-2-1-2 and the 4-2-3-1 but didn’t see too much of the ball. Did a lot of running out of possession to pack out the midfield and force Forest Green to go long.
SUB – Barry – 6.5: A late change and operated as the right winger in the 4-2-3-1 system. Similarly to Smith, most of his contribution was off of the ball, closing players down and making it difficult for them to play the ball in our half. Had a couple of nice moments in possession and almost broke down the right a couple of times which cost Forest Green a lot of valuable time.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6.5: It wasn’t the prettiest performance and it certainly wasn’t a complete performance but it was a show of determination to get a much-needed result against a team occupying a similar league position to us. There were hints of what we could perhaps expect to see from a Jackson MK Dons side in the future with regards to some of our higher tempo spells of possession and the constant pressing from our midfield and forward players towards the end of the game. There was certainly a difference in aggression and composure levels at the very least.
With this being said, there were still clear weaknesses in the side that will need to be worked on. The most notable of these being the gap that kept appearing between our defence and midfield which can cause all sorts of problems for a possession-based team should the opposition decide they want to press. These weaknesses could well be exposed in our next fixture away at Peterborough on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how Jackson approaches that game but it could well be a reality check on the job that needs to be done to pull this club away from the relegation zone.
If you’ve read this far then thank you! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the game in the comments below and I hope you enjoyed the read!