By Luke Payne by kind permission of MK Dons Worldwide on Facebook.
A Saturday at home for MK Dons has been a recipe for disaster this season. Cambridge United came to visit Stadium MK looking to kick-start their season in a game that could only be described as a six pointer. Much to Dons delight, the Saturday home game curse has been broken with a 1-0 victory.
Here’s how I rated the players following that crucial win over our relegation rivals:
Formation: 4-3-3 (Switched to 5-3-2 after 78 minutes)
GK – Cumming – 7.5: Pulled out one or two big saves to maintain the lead, with particular reference to a low shot he tipped past the post in the second half. Fantastic distribution throughout and was regularly able to turn defence into attack with accurate long passes. Did concede one in the first half to a Lankester shot but another Cambridge forward was stood next to Cumming and blocked him from diving meaning that the goal was disallowed for offside.
RB – Watson – 6.5: Still not in the best vein of form but did have some bright moments including sprinting back to pressure Lankester into missing his one-on-one attempt. Did almost play Cumming into trouble with a mishit back pass but the keeper was able to clear his lines before Cambridge could recover the ball. With this being said he usually did enough to prevent any shots on goal and did well in a slightly more central position as well towards the end of the game, with Kaikai dropping back to cover the right wing.
RCB – Tucker – 7: Stronger with his tackling than we’ve ever seen before and seemed much more committed to the cause. Looked a lot more comfortable defensively with Lewington there to guide him but he did still seem a little unnerved when on the ball. Was regularly on hand to clear his lines towards the end of the game.
LCB – Lewington – 8 (TOP DON): Didn’t put a foot wrong for the duration he was on the pitch. Seemed to have a calming effect on his teammates and he led by example, battling for everything and winning every ball that came his way. Tried a shot from outside the box in the first half but couldn’t quite find the target. He regularly managed to beat his man with clever flicks, giving him more space to pick out his next pass. Was withdrawn as a precaution after 66 minutes with Lawrence taking his place.
LB – Harvie – 7: Had some very positive moments with his build-up in addition to his defensive work. Had a couple of shots on goal in the second half with his first effort going just over the bar which was unlucky given the difficulty of the chance. His second chance was on the right side of the box but he sliced his effort so much that it rather embarrassingly went out for a throw-in. Moved into centre-back after Lewington came off and smoothly dealt with any balls that came his way.
CM – Devoy – 6.5: Tasked with playing a deeper role than he’s used to and did take a while to get used to the role with most of his first half contributions being backward passes. His break-up play was reasonable although not convincing a lot of the time. Did have a couple of speculative shots but didn’t really look like scoring. Started to settle in the second half and did win the ball high up the pitch for Harvie’s second chance but came off after 66 minutes for McEachran.
CM – Maghoma – 7.5: Starting to look like a key figure in the Dons midfield. Had a certain drive about him and regularly drew one or two Cambridge players towards him before releasing the ball. Very solid break-up play and he acted as a good link between the defence and attack, which helped bring players like Grant and Holland into the game more. Won countless free-kicks in the defensive and middle thirds, particularly in the closing minutes.
CAM – Grant – 7.5: Was crucial to most of our attacks, regularly playing clever reverse passes to release his teammates into dangerous positions and setting up chances for the likes of Kaikai, Eisa and Devoy. He linked up particularly well with Kaikai throughout the match. Did look a little lightweight at times and did go down very easily in the box in the first half looking for a penalty. There were a few poor passes but these were outweighed by the amount of chances he was able to create. Came off after 78 minutes for Johnson.
RW – Kaikai – 7: Involved in a lot of good build-up play with Grant and swung in a number of crosses through both open play and set pieces. Had a great chance in the box blocked after being set up by Grant in the second half. Found himself dropping deeper as the game went on until he was effectively playing right wingback for the final minutes of the game. Supported Watson well for most of the game and made sure he was in the right positions to help preserve the lead.
ST – Eisa – 7: Scored the only goal of the game after 35 minutes, hitting a lovely free-kick into the top left corner from the left side of the box. Was involved in a lot of the build-up play but like the rest of the frontline, he didn’t quite get the final ball right. Almost went through on goal in the first half but got outpaced by the Cambridge defender and he did have a couple of other shots on goal as well that didn’t hit the target. Moved across to left wing after Grigg came on but was substituted a bit later on, coming off after 78 minutes for Dean.
LW – Holland – 6.5: Solid defensively and worked well with Harvie. Was quite limited in his impact going forward but did set up Devoy for a chance with a great cutback after getting in behind. Had a quiet start to the second half and swiftly came off for Grigg after 61 minutes.
SUB – Grigg – 6.5: Wasn’t that effective in possession but made a big difference defensively with his high work rate and constant pressing that forced a lot of mistakes out of the Cambridge players.
SUB – Lawrence – 7: Looked solid defensively playing at left back and was able to cut out a number of attacks, even in positions where it looked like he might get overrun.
SUB – McEachran – 7: Gave the midfield a bit more bite as we looked to prevent Cambridge from clawing their way back into the game. Very strong break-up play particularly in the middle third of the pitch which prevented the opposition from playing football in advanced areas.
SUB – Dean – 6.5: Didn’t get much of the ball but was constantly hounding the Cambridge defence, adding even more pressure with him and Grigg pressing together.
SUB – Johnson – 6.5: Played a few nice passes but did make a couple of mistakes in possession. Did a solid enough job at maintaining control of the middle third of the pitch.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 7: It wasn’t the prettiest performance but it got the job done. There was a lot more desire and belief in the side that was likely inspired by the return of Lewington. A few individuals such as Grant stepped up and we had some smooth passages of play that made us look like a good side. However, there was still something wrong in the final third. We got ourselves into some fantastic positions but the resulting shots were mostly inadequate. We’re playing with a certain level of intelligence but we don’t quite have the prowess in front of goal to match.
The defence looked a lot tougher and up for the fight although there were still some shaky moments that need ironing out. With that being said, when we started getting bodies behind the ball in the final moments we didn’t really look like conceding. There was a consistently good press from the likes of Grigg and Dean and the midfield were alert and taking their chances to cut out every ball they could. There’s still a long way to go in the relegation scrap but similar performances against Accrington and Morecambe could put us in a much more positive place. Now that the skipper’s back, we have a real opportunity to gain momentum and get ourselves out of this mess!
If you’ve read this far then thank you! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the game in the comments on the facebook page and I hope you enjoyed the read!