By Luke Payne by kind permission of MK Dons Worldwide on Facebook
Payne’s Player Ratings vs Derby (Away):
With The Dons picking up a point against Portsmouth on Friday, this Derby fixture could’ve been viewed as a free hit. The play-off contenders did take the lead initially but Mark Jackson’s men found a way back into the game and were able to secure another point on the board. Here’s how I rated the players after the 1-1 draw away to Derby County:
Formation: 5-2-3 (Switched to 5-3-2 after 78 minutes)
GK – Jamie Cumming – 8 (TOP DON): Made a number of top quality saves to deny the trigger-happy Derby forwards, with a couple of them being from close range. His long range distribution was a little suspect at times but given how good his shot-stopping was, this can be excused.
RWB – Henry Lawrence – 7: Started slowly and found himself doing a lot of chasing as Derby asserted their dominance on the game. Was involved in a few well-constructed passages of play including for the equalising goal where he got on the end of Holland’s cross to calmly direct the ball into the net making it 1-1 after 68 minutes. Did let a lot of crosses into the box, but didn’t have too much support from his teammates in dealing with those overload scenarios on the right wing.
RCB – Tennai Watson – 8: Barely put a foot wrong all game and looked like a natural centre-back. Was quick to stifle any dangerous attacks and was regularly on hand to unnerve the Derby forwards as they were about to shoot. His passing was positive as well and he was able to orchestrate a number of counter-attacks. Worked well alongside Lawrence to play their way out of tricky situations.
CB – Anthony Stewart – 7: Had one or two questionable moments in the first half, including on one occasion where he tried to body feint to beat his man as the ball was played to him which did initially work but he failed to control the ball and lost possession, resulting in a dangerous Derby attack. With this being said he made life awkward for the likes of David McGoldrick who was trying to impose his physicality on the Dons defenders.
LCB – Dean Lewington – 7: Looked a little exposed due to the pace of Nathaniel Mendez-Laing but was able to get himself into the right position to defend more often than not. He did let his man in behind a couple of times though this may have been due to Jules being out of position. Almost played Dons into trouble with a misplaced header that led to a fast counter-attack for Derby. He was the calmest man on the pitch in the closing minutes, stepping in to make two vital blocks inside the box to prevent a late Derby winner.
LWB – Zak Jules – 6.5: Extremely poor in the first half and looked totally out of his comfort zone, regularly letting the likes of Mendez-Laing past without much trouble. Did also give the ball away needlessly a number of times. Started to settle more in the second half and cut out a number of attacks with his interceptions and blocks. Became a pantomime villain when he went down injured defending a ball into the box. He went down off the pitch and controversially rolled back onto it which prevented the game from continuing before the physio could come and assist him. He was then substituted before play restarted, with Ethan Robson taking his place after 95 minutes.
CM – Josh McEachran – 7: One of the better-performing Dons players in a poor first half. Broke up play as much as he could and launched a few attacks through the middle of the pitch including one big opportunity for Mo Eisa. He was quick to close the Derby players down but sometimes lacked support from his teammates so Derby were usually able to play around it. Came off after 85 minutes for Bradley Johnson.
CM – Paris Maghoma – 7.5: Looked to be back at his best after a poor showing against Portsmouth. He embraced the physicality of Derby’s playstyle and battled well as well as riding a number of challenges as he looked to dribble forwards with the ball. Did make a few mistakes in possession but he was also crucial to the short attacking spells The Dons had. Found himself having to defend deeper in the latter stages of the game but he was able to cut out a number of attacks as Derby piled the pressure on.
RAM – Jonathan Leko – 5.5: Had a quiet game and did leave Lawrence a bit exposed at times. At fault for Derby’s goal where he failed to mark the near post properly from a corner, allowing James Collins to flick the ball on for Mcgoldrick to tap across the line. Did get one shot on goal but it was never troubling Joe Wildsmith. Should’ve held his run when he was counter-attacking with Nathan Holland as he would’ve had a free one-on-one scenario. He had a limited involvement and came off at half-time with Conor Grant taking his place.
LAM – Nathan Holland – 7.5: Inconsistent but easily Dons biggest threat throughout the game. Made a number of dribbles in the attacking third including for the equalising goal where he managed to reach Watson’s over-hit diagonal ball forward whilst holding off his man before reaching the byline and squaring the ball for Lawrence. Did lose the ball needlessly a few times but he was regularly able to draw Derby players towards him, giving his teammates more space to work with. Came off for Grigg after 78 minutes as Jackson looked to switch to a more narrow defensive formation.
ST – Mo Eisa – 5.5: He was caught offside too many times and wasted his best chance of the game, mis-controlling a through ball during a one-on-one scenario, rushing the shot and missing the target as a result. Was too flat-footed almost every time the ball came to him in the second half which led to him losing possession easily or simply failing to reach the pass in the first place. Pressed fairly well but didn’t offer much of an attacking threat. Came off after 78 minutes for Max Dean.
SUB – Conor Grant – 6: Didn’t have that much more involvement than the man he replaced but did help out more defensively. Helped to jockey and slow down the Derby attackers.
SUB – Max Dean – 6: Brought a lot of energy and very nearly had a chance to run through on goal but the chance was cut out before it really started. Led the line and pressed well, occasionally having to drop back to clear the ball or pressure an opposition player.
SUB – Will Grigg – 6: Allowed Dons to switch to a 5-3-2 formation although he spent more time in midfield than attack due to the amount of control Derby had over the game. Defended well but was limited for opportunities going forward.
SUB – Bradley Johnson – 6: A relatively late change to add a bit more physicality to the midfield as Derby pushed higher up the pitch. Had to play the final few minutes as a centre-back due to the Jules’ injury. Defended well and made a couple of important clearances.
SUB – Ethan Robson – 6: Came on too late to have too much impact on the game but he did step in and make a couple of important interceptions and clearances before the full-time whistle.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 7: Similarly to the Portsmouth game a few days previously, the first half was poor. However, rather than exploiting the midfield like Portsmouth did, Derby exploited the wings. They caught out Jules, Lewington and Lawrence a number of times and had plenty of chances to put the game to bed. Fortunately they didn’t. This allowed The Dons to regroup and the whole team looked more resilient in the second half, defending as more of a unit. Derby’s defence had two or three lapses in concentration across the match and Lawrence was able to capitalise which gave Dons something to defend. From that point on, every Dons player put themselves on the line to secure the point.
It wasn’t a brilliant performance but it was gutsy and it was well-fought. It was the look of a team that wants to stay in this division for next season. The relegation battle is by no means over, but it’s now six games unbeaten with a winnable home fixture against Cheltenham coming up next. Jack Tucker and Sullay Kaikai might be returning for this game so there’s a real opportunity to secure another positive result that could potentially put The Dons as many as seven points clear from the drop.
If you’ve read this far then thank you! I would love to hear your thoughts on the game in the comments below and I hope you enjoyed the read!