For the final time this season Luke from The MK Dons Worldwide on Facebook gives us his verdict
Payne’s Player Ratings vs Burton (Away):
Before I get the final ratings article of the season underway, I would just like to take a moment to thank all of you lovely people for reading every week and sharing your thoughts each time I post. It’s an honour to know that it’s become part of the match day experience for some of you and I’m just happy to share my love for the club with likeminded people.
I would also like to extend thanks to the MKDSA for bringing me onto the media team as well as the lads at MK Dons Worldwide for letting me share my content beyond the realms of the Facebook group. I do have one further end of season article on its way so please look out for that, I promise it will be worth it! For one last time this season, here’s Payne’s Player Ratings…
Heartbreak! The season has finally come to an end with an away fixture against Burton deciding The Dons’ fate. Most were aware that Morecambe and Cambridge were the chasers heading into the final day. Morecambe were defeated by Exeter but Cambridge easily dispatched Forest Green meaning that Dons had to win to survive. Devastatingly this wasn’t the case. Mark Jackson’s men couldn’t break the deadlock and the game finished 0-0 which means it’ll be League Two football next season. Here’s how I rated the players after the season-concluding result against The Brewers:
Formation: 5-2-3 (Switched to 5-3-2 at half-time and then switched to 4-2-4 after 79 minutes)
GK – Jamie Cumming – 6.5: A simple, routine job for his last appearance, only having to make a couple of comfortable saves. His distribution left a lot to be desired at times but he was able to find his target man more often than not.
RWB – Sulley Kaikai – 7.5: Looked the most likely player to score in the first half with one shot on goal blazing just over the bar and another curling effort forcing an impressive save out of Craig MacGillivray. In the second half, Kaikai set up Mo Eisa for one of the more clear cut chances but Eisa’s shot was feeble and landed straight in the gloves of MacGillivray. Kaikai didn’t neglect his defensive duties either and he was usually well-positioned to prevent Burton from causing any real trouble. He came off after 79 minutes in order to allow Dons to play a 4-2-4 formation. Will Grigg took his place.
RCB – Warren O’Hora – 7.5: A man on a mission. Looked much more match fit than he did in the Barnsley fixture and he limited Burton to very little, winning most of his battles. He had one shot on goal in the second half that cannoned slightly over the bar following an unusual passage of play from a corner.
CB – Jack Tucker – 7.5: Often played as the last man and cut out some dangerous looking moves with a great display of composure. With this being said, he did get dribbled past a couple of times but was usually able to recover with the help of his teammates. Watched his headed effort on goal sail over the bar following a corner.
LCB – Dean Lewington (C) – 7.5: Similarly to O’Hora, he showed a lot of initiative with his defending, but also with the attacking intent of his passes. A few of these passes were off-target but he did his best to play with a higher tempo, forcing Burton backwards. He rolled back the years for the final few minutes, returning to his original position of left-back when Dons switched to a back four.
LWB – Tennai Watson – 7.5 (TOP DON): Started the game playing quite deep but adjusted to playing higher up the pitch as Burton started to retreat. Watson won near enough every aerial battle and was involved in some clever passing moves in the final third. He played the final minutes of the game in his usual right-back position. Watson did potentially waste a chance when he controlled the ball in the box when Grigg was in a shooting position right behind him. It’s hard to say if the chance would’ve been better if he had left it given the amount of bodies in the box.
CM – Paris Maghoma – 7.5: Gave the ball away a number of times with poor passes or from not shielding the ball properly, but he did also give Dons a lot of drive through the middle of the pitch. He set up Conor Grant and Jonathan Leko for their big chances in the first half and was a catalyst for creative play throughout the second half. His tenacity and power will be sorely missed next season.
CM – Josh McEachran – 7: Broke up play well and had control of the middle third most of the time. He did pick up an early booking for leaving a leg in as Burton looked to counter-attack and easily could’ve been in trouble again as he did this a few more times after his booking. He came off after 58 minutes with the more attack-minded Dawson Devoy taking his place.
RAM – Jonathan Leko – 6.5: Incredibly difficult to give a rating to. Created more chances than anyone but also wasted more chances than anyone. He had his first half effort denied by the leg of MacGillivray and missed the target four or five times from good shooting positions. He also played the ball in to Kaikai for one of Eisa’s best chances. His laziness when it came to defending caused a few minor problems. He spent a short stint as a striker in the second half after the first formation change but moved back to the wing for the final minutes.
LAM – Conor Grant – 6: Had the first big chance of the game, slicing his effort off target from the edge of the box. However, he did set up a number of chances, including for Kaikai’s first effort on goal and O’Hora’s second half shot. He moved into a central attacking midfield role for the second half but was eventually replaced by Nathan Holland after 63 minutes.
ST – Mo Eisa – 5: Played a big part in the creation of chances but his finishing let him down massively. He forced one fairly routine save out of MacGillivray but with his other chances he either passed it to the Burton keeper or hit them off target. This included a free-kick from a great position that he sent flying over the bar. His build-up play was good and led to big chances for his teammates but he just couldn’t find his way onto the scoresheet.
SUB – Dawson Devoy – 6.5: Picked up where McEachran left off, albeit higher up the pitch. He was unlucky not to score when he hit the inside of the post following a poor clearance from Burton.
SUB – Nathan Holland – 7: Created a number of chances in fairly quick succession within minutes of coming on. He played a number of balls into the box including in the lead-up to Devoy’s effort on goal. The consistency of his play started to drop as time went on but he did play a fantastic flick-on pass in the build-up to one of Leko’s final shots on goal.
SUB – Will Grigg – 5.5: Had limited time to make a difference and set up Leko’s shot following Holland’s flick-on. Hovered around in the box and had a lot of nearly moments where he almost got the ball in a shooting position and he was heavily involved in the passage of play towards the end where Burton made three goal-line clearances in a row.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6.5: This is a tough performance to give a rating to. The defence and midfield did everything that was required of them. Had Dons won this match almost every player would’ve been looking at an 8 rating minimum. It started as a well-controlled battle but turned into a dominant display and it had everything apart from the goal needed to secure the three points. The reality is that the quality in the final third wasn’t good enough. Out of 31 shots, Dons only managed 6 on target with MacGillivray only needing to make 2-3 big saves.
With all this being said, the initiative and persistence shown, particularly by the more-experienced players, was phenomenal. Unfortunately it took 45 league games and a final day dogfight to get that mentality out of the players for a full 90 minutes. Of course this is all in hindsight, but had Dons played with that mentality for the entire season, relegation would’ve been out of the question.
With League Two football now confirmed, there are question marks everywhere. Does Jackson carry on managing the squad? Which players get released? Who gets scapegoated for relegation? How are we going to keep the likes of Daniel Harvie, Watson, O’Hora, McEachran and Eisa at the club? How will we attract quality footballers without the promise of League One football?
A dark summer awaits this football club. There are the foundations of a good squad still at the club as things stand, but another transfer window of mistakes and appalling scouting could spell major trouble. Whatever happens next season…I’m MK till I die!
Thank you so much for reading the final Payne’s Player Ratings of the season. I would love to hear your thoughts on the game and the overall season in the comments below. Also just a final reminder that I have a special end of season article in the works so look out for that in the near future! I hope you enjoyed the read!