Payne’s Player Ratings Northampton

By Luke Payne by kind permission

The Dons pre-season fixtures concluded with a home game against League One newcomers Northampton. After going 1-0 down in the first half, Graham Alexander’s men were able to equalise before two late Northampton goals put an end to any hopes of a comeback. Here’s how I rated the platers after the 3-1 defeat at Stadium MK:

Formation: 5-2-3 (Switched to 4-3-3 after 23 minutes)

GK – Craig MacGillivray – 6: Very little he could have done about the three goals, and he did make a few decent saves. MacGillivray looked confident on the ball and was always quick off the line when he needed to be. He was perhaps lucky not to give away a penalty from a one-on-one scenario in the second half.

RWB – Cameron Norman – 5.5: Slow to get going in the first half and was far too content to allow Northampton’s players to shoot. Instead of closing them down, he would stand there expecting to block it from a few metres away. This makes him partially responsible for Northampton’s first goal. He did manage a shot on goal that was just off target. He settled in the second half and played the ball about nicely with Alex Gilbey and Warren O’Hora.

RCB – Warren O’Hora (C) – 7: Solid defensively throughout, getting stuck in and winning his battles. His passing was consistent, and he was a calming presence on the ball. He did extremely well to evade his marker from a corner in the second half that then enabled him to score from a free header into the top corner.

CB – Jack Tucker – 7: Seemed to form a good defensive partnership with Warren O’Hora. Tucker cut out a number of attacks with good challenges, and he won most of his aerial duels as well. He played the ball about nicely and played a couple of fantastic long balls, although a lot of his other attempts were lacking. Operated as the left centre-back in the back four when the formation changed and the two late goals did come down that side, but he had very little support from the midfield and attack.

LCB – Daniel Harvie – 5: A bad day at the office. Most of his early passes went directly to the opposition, and it took him a while to find his groove. He was solid enough defensively in the first half, and he had to cover for a lot of Brooklyn Ilunga’s mistakes. His second half was an improvement until the final few minutes where he got caught nowhere near his marker for Northampton’s second goal and then proceeded to concede a third down that side before going straight down the tunnel with an injury after 89 minutes. Harvie had gone down injured earlier in the half, so perhaps he tried to carry on and realised he couldn’t. Phoenix Scholtz came on to replace him.

LWB – Brooklyn Ilunga – 4: Perhaps a bit harsh as he’s still young, but Ilunga really didn’t understand the assignment. He was directly at fault for the first goal when he left his marker, opting to close down the player on the ball when that player was already being covered by Daniel Harvie. The Northampton player then had an easy pass to Ilunga’s marker which led to a free cross and a scrappy passage of play and Northampton were able to put the ball into the back of the net via the crossbar. Ilunga also struggled to maintain possession at times, and he was swiftly replaced after 23 minutes by Ethan Robson as The Dons switched to a more familiar 4-3-3.

CM – Alex Gilbey – 7: Showed fantastic leadership in the absence of Dean Lewington despite not wearing the captain’s armband. He battled extremely well throughout and seemed to be on the same wavelength as MJ Williams and Ethan Robson. Whenever Northampton had possession, one of the midfield trio would be straight on the opponent’s touch, then the next of the trio would be on the next man’s touch and so on. This caused a lot of turnovers in possession in favour of The Dons.

CM – MJ Williams – 6.5: Similarly to Alex Gilbey, he got stuck in and did the dirty work really well. He also played a lovely ball into the box for Darragh Burns to finish early in the first half, but unfortunately, Burns was offside. Williams put a shift in but started to look tired towards the end, which left him chasing shadows in the closing stages with Northampton making seven changes to their side in the middle of the second half.

RW – Darragh Burns – 5: Had the ball in the back of the net early on with a lovely touch to beat the keeper following MJ Williams’ ball in. However, Burns was judged to have been offside. The rest of his first half was poor, as he resorted to playing sideways most of the time. He struggled to beat the physicality of Northampton’s defence but was able to get a couple of crosses into the box. He was withdrawn after 56 minutes, and Nathan Holland took his place.

ST – Jonathan Leko – 4.5: Couldn’t be bothered to put the work in for the first half and wasn’t even watching where the ball was a number of times. On one occasion, he wasn’t even looking as one of his teammates passed the ball to him! He started to wake up in the second half and created a couple of chances for himself but failed to hit the target both times. One of these times, he had drawn 3 Northampton players towards him, and he could’ve easily set up Alex Gilbey to shoot as he was in plenty of space, but Leko decided to take the shot himself. He came off after 56 minutes for Mo Eisa.

LW – Joel Anker – 7.5 (TOP DON): He would’ve been the name on the team sheet everyone was questioning prior to kick-off but he proved any doubters wrong with a high-energy, exciting performance. Anker was Dons’ biggest asset going forwards, popping up all over the final third and looking to move the ball on quickly, whether that was finding a teammate or taking a shot on goal. Despite being one of the smallest players on the pitch, he put up a fight physically and outjumped taller Northampton players a number of times when going for headers.
He completed his performance with an assist, whipping in a fantastic corner to set up Warren O’Hora for the equalising goal. He brought energy and drive to the team, never giving up on a loose ball and he was able to force mistakes out of Northampton’s defence plenty of times. He came off to a well-earned reception after 75 minutes with Max Dean taking his place.

SUB (CM) – Ethan Robson – 7: Perhaps his best performance since his original stint at the club. Robson was fired up and ready to battle for every ball. He won possession high up the pitch a number of times and operated well with Alex Gilbey and MJ Williams. In addition to this he was far more positive with his passing than he has been previously, always looking to play the ball forwards.

SUB (LW) – Nathan Holland – 4: Showed a very similar attitude to Jonathan Leko and neglected his defensive duties, leaving Daniel Harvie and Jack Tucker exposed against a fresh Northampton attacking unit. He played the ball about nicely well enough in possession but was far too content to hover around the halfway line until The Dons got the ball.

SUB (ST) – Mo Eisa – 5: Similarly to Darragh Burns he struggled with the physicality of Northampton’s defence but was left chasing loose balls with the team collapsing in the final minutes of the game. He did nearly break through on goal a couple of times but the Northampton defenders were quick to cut out the attacks.

SUB (RW) – Max Dean – 5: Had the same problem as Mo Eisa and spent more time chasing loose balls than actually getting a chance to do anything in possession. He looked alright on the ball on the few occasions he did get it but his first touch was a little bit heavy at times.

TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6.5: This was an interesting game from a team perspective. The Dons looked totally uncomfortable playing the 5-2-3 and Northampton were the better team in the first half. With that being said, the formation change at 23 minutes did help Dons settle and immediately the game started to balance out. The majority of the second half was pleasing from a defensive point of view but the final few minutes were incredibly poor and it looked like the team just ran out of legs. For the second and third goals it took the midfield and attack far too long to track back. The midfield may have been tired by that point given the intense training programme but the frontline had no excuse having only been on the pitch for less than a half.

The foundations of a good team are there. The defence and midfield seemed to be on the same wavelength and you can see partnerships forming, particularly between the midfield trio of Alex Gilbey, MJ Williams and Ethan Robson. However, the final third remains a problem. In this particular game Jonathan Leko and Nathan Holland didn’t seem all that bothered about winning the game whilst Darragh Burns, Mo Eisa and Max Dean were beaten for physicality. They were all shown up by young Joel Anker who showed fantastic desire and intelligence throughout.

Graham Alexander has already stated that he wants more signings, notably for the forward areas so while the transfer window is open, we should reserve judgement on how this team performs. It is by no means the finished product and there are certainly weaknesses that are concerning, but it’s all a process and that process is only just beginning. Wrexham are going to be a very difficult opponent but there is also an opportunity to succeed with their top scorer Paul Mullin missing through injury. Given that this will be the first competitive fixture of the season, the team won’t be training on the day of the game so it will be interesting to see how much difference it makes to the fitness of the team.

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!

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