By Luke Payne by kind permission of MK Dons Worldwide on Facebook
Payne’s Player Ratings vs Oxford (Home):
There was a cautious optimism amongst Dons fans going into this home fixture against Oxford. Our visitors had lost four in a row under former Dons manager Karl Robinson and our recent victory over Bristol Rovers had given the fans more reason to believe in the squad. We did take a 1-0 lead but unfortunately it didn’t last as Oxford came out swinging in the second half. Here’s how I rated the players after the 1-1 draw with The U’s at Stadium MK:
GK – Cumming – 5.5: Wasn’t required to do much in terms of shot-stopping in the first half but did almost make a fatal error when a pass-back rolled under his foot as he went to control it. Luckily, he was able to clear his lines before the ball could roll across the goal-line. Was a lot busier in the second half and did make two very good saves to deny the Oxford forwards. However, he was beaten by Bate on the 71st minute; a goal that made it 1-1. He did get a hand to the shot but could only parry it into the goal. His long range distribution was a bit questionable at times but he did keep a calm head whenever Oxford tried to press him.
RB – Watson – 7: Not quite as strong as his other recent performances but still a respectable showing. He got stuck in wherever he could and made a number of blocks as well despite Oxford trying to overload that side of the pitch a number of times. His passing was mostly good although he did make a few small mistakes in possession. Made a couple of fantastic dribbles including one in the first half where he found his way into the box before cutting it back to Eisa who sadly wasted the resulting opportunity. Came off with a bit of a knock after 76 minutes. Lawrence came on to take his place.
RCB – Tucker – 7.5: Some of you may remember that I was extremely critical of Tucker a few games ago but it must be said that he was a force to be reckoned with at the heart of the Dons defence in this fixture. Oxford targeted him from the very first minute but he stood his ground for the entirety of the fixture, even coming across to help Jules when necessary. He won countless defensive headers and was able to find a Dons player almost every time. There were moments where he looked a little shaky but he didn’t put a foot wrong. Very close to getting Top Don.
LCB – Jules – 7: Looked solid but didn’t stand out as much as Tucker alongside him. Won his fair share of headers and put in a number of blocks. Did have to cover a few times for Harvie but equally needed help from Tucker a couple of times as well. Looked comfortable on the ball and regularly played his way out of trouble without fuss.
LB – Harvie – 6: Struggled for consistency in this fixture. On one hand, he was involved in some nice build-up play throughout the game and played a lovely diagonal ball forward in the second half that wasn’t capitalised on. He also had an optimistic shot on goal from outside the box that he couldn’t quite hit the target with. On the other hand, he had some very poor moments in possession, giving the ball away needlessly or giving up on the runs he was making just before the ball was played in his direction. He did also allow crosses to come in from his side way too easily.
CM – McEachran – 8 (TOP DON): I almost gave him Top Don against Bristol Rovers and this time he does get the title. He orchestrated the team wonderfully and was crucial to our dominance of the first half. He constantly played pinpoint passes allowing us to find gaps in Oxford’s defensive lines and his break-up play prevented our opponents from catching us on the break. The game flipped on its head when he came off after 66 minutes for Johnson.
CM – Maghoma – 7: Had a very good first half and broke up play well alongside McEachran. A number of times he was able to pivot or dribble with the ball, drawing in two or three Oxford players at a time before releasing it to a teammate. Did have one effort on goal in the first half but his finishing let him down. Started to become a bit reckless in the second half and picked up a yellow card for a challenge that was probably unnecessary. Carried on in this aggressive fashion until he came off for Grant after 81 minutes.
CAM – Devoy – 7.5: Crucial to most of our attacking play in the first half and enabled Eisa to get more involved with his forward passes as well as his play in and around the box. Had a shot on goal in the first half but couldn’t find the target. He covered every blade of grass and dropped into a more defensive midfield role when Grant came on. Looked incredibly tired by the end of the game and probably would’ve had a rest had Maghoma not looked like a red card waiting to happen.
RW – Leko – 6: Lively as ever but his end product was disappointing. Wasted a very good opportunity early in the first half, blasting his effort well over the bar from fairly close range. Had the better of his man in a one-on-one scenario but regularly ran himself into traps and couldn’t release the ball without losing possession. Did also have a couple of poor lapses in concentration including one that could’ve led to a big chance for Oxford. With this being said, he did play a lovely ball through for Eisa in the second half. This proved to be his final major contribution of the game as he came off for Dean after 66 minutes.
ST – Eisa – 6.5: A tough one to give a rating to. He set up Kaikai for our goal and was involved in a lot of great build-up play but he didn’t bring his shooting boots and wasted some of our best chances of the game. Missed the target from Watson’s cutback in the first half and went through on goal in the second half but was denied by Eastwood. Pressed well and did a lot of running before eventually coming off for Grigg after 81 minutes.
LW – Kaikai – 7: Started the game quietly but came alive all of a sudden, finding the bottom corner with a lovely strike across goal, making it 1-0 after 25 minutes. He also flashed a ball across goal without finding a Dons man in the first half. The rest of his game was build-up play as well as some important defensive duties that he carried out expertly, getting us out of trouble a number of times. His best performance in a Dons shirt to date.
SUB – Dean – 6: Wasn’t as involved as Leko before him but did also get less service. Often made the right decisions in passing or trying to beat his man but nothing quite came off for him. Some of these occasions he was unlucky with deflections but he did also win us a corner or two in the late stages of the game.
SUB – Johnson – 6: Looked unstoppable for the first two minutes he was on the pitch, winning the ball about five times in the Oxford half in quick succession. Unfortunately this didn’t last and he was directly responsible for Oxford’s goal, getting ‘Bate’d into committing himself only to find that Bate had flicked the ball away from him in order to get a shot on goal. A shot that he belted into the net from a central position. Johnson didn’t look bad after that, but he didn’t offer the same intensity or control that came with McEachran’s presence on the pitch.
SUB – Lawrence – 5: A poor showing from the fullback, getting beaten by his man a number of times. Looked solid enough in possession but was simply outclassed by the Oxford forwards.
SUB – Grant – 6.5: Wasn’t on the pitch long enough to really make a difference but steadied the ship in terms of our defending, jockeying well and pressuring Oxford’s players into releasing the ball sooner. Played the ball about nicely but didn’t see much of it in the final third.
SUB – Grigg – 6.5: Same as Grant, he put a lot of pressure on the Oxford players but had a limited impact going forward. Won a couple of headers but that was all he could manage from what little service was provided for him.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6.5: The football saying ‘A game of two halves’ is the best way of describing this fixture. The first half was fantastic in terms of control, defending and chances created. We were let down by our quality in front of goal and were ultimately made to pay for it when we ran out of steam in the second half. Without McEachran pulling the strings in the middle of the pitch we quickly lost our way and were second best for the rest of the fixture. Maghoma coming off later in the half just added to our problems as we lacked the energy and fight to win our battles in the middle third. Johnson and a tired Devoy were never going to offer the same quality of break-up play which left us penned into our own half until the full-time whistle went.
What we’ve seen from the last few games is that we are very capable of playing Jackson’s brand of football and it’s certainly an improvement from what we witnessed in the first half of the season. However, it’s essentially a coin flip as to whether we have the quality to win the game or not. If it’s heads then Eisa and co. are firing on all cylinders and win us the game. If it’s tails then it’s a frustrating day of football with a result that feels like it could’ve been a whole lot more. With three tricky fixtures against the top end sides coming up, it will be a real test of our quality. Let’s just hope our hypothetical coin lands on heads a few more times!
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!