By Luke Payne, brought to you with the kind permission of MK Dons Worldwide on Facebook
Payne’s Player Ratings vs Shrewsbury (Home):
With the teams around Dons all playing top opposition, a home game to Shrewsbury was a real chance to build a gap over the teams in the relegation zone. For 88 minutes it looked like we would do just that. Unfortunately disaster struck right at the end and we found ourselves victims of a 1-0 loss. Here’s how I rated the players after the dramatic conclusion of our 1-0 defeat to Shrewsbury:
GK – Cumming – 6: Had very little to do in terms of shot-stopping. Did flap at one ball into the box in the first half and had an injury scare shortly afterwards. Looked like he had recovered when he came out for the second half. Reasonable distribution for the most part though he did misplace a couple of easy balls out.
RB – Watson – 7: Very lively with particular reference to the first half, working well alongside Leko to attack down the right time and time again. Showed good aggression throughout to win and keep the ball high up the pitch on numerous occasions. Showed flashes of skill to beat his man a few times. Defended well for the entire match.
CB – Tucker – 6: For 88 minutes he defended well and played the ball about nicely. His long passing could still use some work but it’s not a major concern. However, he gave the ball away cheaply with a poor pass aimed at Harvie in the 89th minute which led to a swift counter-attack and a goal courtesy of Shrewsbury’s Bayliss. This was the only big chance of the match Shrewsbury really had so he still gets a 6 for keeping them away from Cumming’s goal for the rest of the game.
CB – Jules – 6.5: Like Tucker he defended well for most of the game. Also had a wobbly moment in the second half but the difference was that he recovered to stop the resulting attack. Worked very well alongside Harvie to defend three two-on-two breaks against the opposing forwards in the first half. Would’ve liked to have seen him try a long ball or two as it was only really Tucker going for those sorts of passes.
LB – Harvie – 6.5: Had a slow start to the game and gave the ball away cheaply a couple of times. With this being said, he improved as the game went on and even tried one or two speculative efforts on Marosi’s goal. Helped Jules to win three very important two-on-two scenarios in defence during the first half. Picked up an injury late in the game but refused to go down for treatment even though we had Lawrence ready to come on if he was needed. Harvie battled on till the end regardless.
CM – Devoy – 6.5: Looked good on the ball, and was much stronger when challenged than in previous weeks. Had an early shot on goal saved by Marosi, but the flag was up for offside anyway. Had a shot from the edge of the box blocked by a handball which led to Eisa’s free-kick chance in the second half. Showed good creative instincts, just needs to play the final ball a little quicker sometimes as a number of his balls through ended up taking deflections away from their intended targets. Came off for Smith after 68 minutes.
CM – McEachran – 6: Played a few nice reverse passes to create space in the middle third but a lot of his passes went wayward as well. Probably the quietest of the starting midfield trio but not a bad effort. Broke up play fairly well but found it difficult to find an MK Dons man with his set pieces although a lot of this could be put down to Shrewsbury’s dominance in the air. Came off for Maghoma after 68 minutes.
CM – Johnson – 7: An intelligent showing from the experienced midfielder. Very good break-up play, and defused a lot of tricky passages of play in the middle third with a good ball away to a player in space. Went up for every header he could and gave us a good link between defence and attack. Wasted one of the early chances of the match, slicing his effort from outside the box when he probably could’ve taken a touch. Had another shot on goal in the second half from a free-kick but his effort hit the wall. Showed good leadership in the absence of Lewington and O’Hora despite not being the man with the captain’s armband.
RW – Leko – 7.5 (TOP DON): A very impressive display on his home debut. Caused the Shrewsbury defence problems all evening with his trickery and pace. Had an opposing defender on the floor at least five times and allowed us to play a lot more football in the final third. Repeatedly used body feints to get an extra yard on his man and is unfortunate not to have a goal contribution to his name. Played a cross for Eisa early in the first half but the striker couldn’t guide his header towards goal. Created a lot of other chances including taking one or two shots on goal himself but his efforts were either blocked or off target. Came off after 86 minutes for Burns in order to rest him for the next game on Saturday.
ST – Grigg – 6: Pressed very well and gave the Shrewsbury defence very little time on the ball. Played the ball about nicely in the middle third but seemed to go missing in the final third at times. No real chances to talk about despite the frequent service from the likes of Leko and Devoy. Still put a shift in but was the first to make way, coming off for Dennis after 61 minutes.
LW – Eisa – 6.5: Involved in a lot of our final third play and missed one of the biggest chances of the first half, heading wide following a cross from Leko. Had some more efforts on goal across the 90 minutes including a free-kick that hit the wall before going out for a corner. Was a mostly positive performance but his control let him down a few times which cost us precious time when we were playing on the break. However, like Leko he wasn’t afraid of running at the Shrewsbury defence although he usually opted to move the ball on before he had to take on his man.
SUB – Dennis – 6: Picked up where Grigg left off, pressuring the Shrewsbury defence frequently and looking to play a high press. Battled well but didn’t really get into any shooting positions apart from on one occasion where he was through on goal at a fairly tight angle. He opted to cut the ball back which won us a corner but given how Eisa scored from a similar tight angle a few days previously, perhaps it was worth shooting instead.
SUB – Smith – 5.5: Played the ball about nicely for the most part but wasted two very good attacking positions with poor control.
SUB – Maghoma – 6.5: Looked very comfortable on the ball and showed good aggression to get stuck in where necessary. Allowed Johnson and Smith to play much higher up the pitch but also hovered around the box at times spraying passes around as well. A promising debut to say the least!
SUB – Burns – 6: A late change in order to rest Leko. Looked lively on his return to the side and won a free-kick in an advanced position that Johnson was unable to capitalise on.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 7: In terms of control, tempo and build-up play I would go as far as saying this was the best team performance of the season. There was a sense of purpose about this Dons side. We played intelligently and aggressively which made it difficult for Shrewsbury to get out of their own half at times. The midfield looked more like a cohesive unit for the first time this season which will only be helped by the arrival of Maghoma.
The defence was very solid throughout and it was one individual error that cost us a goal and ultimately the game. At the other end of the pitch we created a lot of chances but unfortunately the quality in front of goal wasn’t quite there. Between Grigg and Dennis there wasn’t a clear chance and most efforts came via the wing players and midfielders. It would’ve been nice to see more fluidity and rotation between the front three as this sort of approach to attacking can really stretch a defence. In a way it’s understandable why we didn’t as Leko was getting constant success down the right wing but it may have created more space in the box if Grigg and Eisa suddenly swapped placed for a couple of minutes just as an example.
Losing out on a point at the very end of the match hurts but thinking from a more long-term point of view this wasn’t a bad performance. If we play like that every game from now on, results will come. Huge progress has been made in terms of improving our playing style. It’s now about making tweaks to make it that little bit more effective so we don’t get caught out by results like this. It’s important for the players to see the improvement and hopefully they won’t be too disheartened as a hit to morale is the last thing this team needs. Onto Exeter at home on Saturday where we’ll no doubts look to make more progress and really fight for our survival.
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!