By LukePayne, PPR is reproduced by kind permission of MK Dons Worldwide Facebook.
2023 kicked off with an incredibly tricky fixture against top of the table Plymouth. There were very few who expected a result here and as it turns out, rightfully so. The Dons fell to a 3-1 defeat at Home Park so here’s how I rated the players after that fixture:
GK – Cumming – 6: Made some decent stops but could’ve done more to prevent Plymouth’s opening goal, as he failed to reach the ball in from a free-kick before Wilson which allowed the Plymouth man to make it 1-0 after just 4 minutes. His short range distribution was fine but he struggled with his long range passes which cost us possession countless times.
RB – Lawrence – 7 (TOP DON): Solid defensively and had some good moments going forward, most notably when he won the ball in the final third and tried to go for goal. His effort was blocked but it indirectly set up Holland who went on to score. Did get caught high up the pitch a couple of times but was usually quick enough to recover. Came off after 86 minutes for Watson.
RCB – Tucker – 5.5: A difficult one to give a rating to. Played the ball about nicely and set up one of our best attacking plays in the first half but was directly responsible for Plymouth’s second goal where he played Ennis onside when he could’ve easily stepped up alongside O’Hora. Ennis was played through on goal as a result and he went on to score, making it 2-1 after 37 minutes. Put in some good challenges and held up a lot of counter-attacks but needs to eradicate the mistakes from his game still.
LCB – O’Hora – 6.5: For the most part looked assured with his defensive work and very comfortable on the ball as well. Could say he lost track of Whittaker for Plymouth’s third goal but there was plenty of time for other players to prevent the upcoming chance. Played one or two lovely balls forward and dribbled into the opposition half a couple of times as well.
LB – Harvie – 6: Started quite slow with a few mistakes in possession but grew into the game after that. Whipped in a lovely cross for Barry who couldn’t get his shot on target in the first half. Started to push further up the pitch in the second half as we looked to get back into the game from 3-1 down, even appearing in central midfield at one point.
CM – Johnson – 4.5: Too far behind the game at times and was partially responsible for Plymouth’s first and third goals. For the first goal, he failed to chase the ball into the box from the free-kick allowing Wilson to sprint straight past him. Similarly for the third goal, he tracked back to begin with but then stopped closing down when Whittaker got the ball. This left the Plymouth man with plenty of space to shoot and ultimately score which put Plymouth 3-1 up after 53 minutes. Made a few mistakes in possession but did contribute to some of our build-up play as well. Tried a volleyed effort in the second half but he couldn’t hit the target.
CM – Robson– 6: The strongest of the starting midfield trio, breaking up play well at times. Played the ball about nicely but like the rest of the midfield he did sometimes float around without contributing at either end of the pitch. Tried to have some attacking influence in the first half but could never quite make anything work out. Also had a shot in the second half but couldn’t find the target. Came off for Smith after 70 minutes.
CM – Devoy – 5: Like Johnson he was partially responsible for Plymouth’s first goal, allowing Wilson to sprint by instead of protecting the ball and clearing it away. Played a few decent passes but made a few mistakes in possession and was still too lightweight with his defensive work. Needed to commit to supporting his teammates a bit more, particularly in defence as we were exposed to counter-attacks a number of times. Came off for McEachran after 70 minutes.
RW – Barry – 5.5: Incredibly frustrating to watch as he got us into a lot of good positions but then ruined his good work by making the wrong decision with regards to releasing the ball. Went down in the penalty box in the first half but was judged to have slipped. Had a number of chances including one he hit wide from close range at the far post from Harvie’s cross and another where he got tackled by the onrushing Plymouth keeper when all he had to do was tap the ball away to go through on goal. He also had Eisa in plenty of space to his side who would’ve had an open goal to aim at. Came off for Grigg after 86 minutes.
ST – Eisa – 5: Had plenty of chances to score but failed to capitalise every single time. He hit the first chance of the game directly at Cooper. He then had a golden opportunity to roll the ball into the bottom corner later in the half but he hit it at Cooper again. A third opportunity also went begging. Moved out to the left wing following the introduction of Dennis and almost ran through on goal but got barged off the ball easily by a Plymouth defender.
LW – Holland – 6: Started fairly quietly but popped up to score the equaliser following a blocked Lawrence shot, making it 1-1 after 19 minutes. He set up Eisa for one of his chances later in the half and had a shot denied by Cooper in the second half. Played the ball about well enough but was the first to be withdrawn, coming off for Dennis after 61 minutes.
SUB – Dennis – 6.5: Offered something different up front with Eisa moving out wide to accommodate him. Held the ball up well and popped up all over the pitch to make himself an option. Won multiple free-kicks in the final third and helped us to push further up the pitch. Moved to right wing when Grigg came on.
SUB – McEachran – 4.5: Unusually poor by his standards. Struggled to string passes together and did little to alter the course of the game. One or two good moments but not playing as well as he did throughout Autumn.
SUB – Smith – 5: Started well but didn’t really settle in after that, and made numerous passing errors.
SUB – Watson – 6: Didn’t see much of the ball with Plymouth sitting back at this late stage so hard to comment either way.
SUB – Grigg – 6: Saw a little bit more of the ball than Watson but didn’t have much opportunity to do anything. Tried to tee up Eisa for a shot when he perhaps could’ve turned and taken a shot himself but his contribution was otherwise limited.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 5.5: From a team perspective, the game wasn’t all that bad. Our forward players had a bad day at the office but we were able to create a good amount of chances against one of the top sides in the division. The defence for the most part did well but had one or two mistakes in them.
However, it was in midfield that this game was lost. There was no real intensity in the middle of the pitch and no real identity either. Dons looked calm on the ball which is great, but that only gets you so far. The midfield need to work as a unit, coming back to defend with higher levels of aggression. Equally they need to come forward and support the attacking players, with one man stepping in if one of the fullbacks has joined the attack. The simple way of putting it is there’s a lack of fluidity in the middle third of the pitch. Hopefully this is something that can be improved through January, whether that’s from a signing or just better understanding and commitment from the players we already have at our disposal.
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!