Payne’s Player Ratings vs Crawley (Away):
After league wins against Wrexham and Tranmere, a lot of Dons fans seemed convinced that a win was the only option against midweek opponents Crawley Town. They were tipped for relegation by most lower league football experts and were also bottom in my own predictions (as seen in a previous MKDSA article). However, they’ve had a strong start to the season and proved to be more than a match for the Dons, who fell to a 2-1 defeat at the Broadfield Stadium. Here’s how I rated the players after the encounter:
Formation: 5-3-2 (Switched to 4-3-3 after 60 minutes)
GK – Craig MacGillivray – 6: Partially at fault for the first goal, as he let the ball past him from a tight angle and sort of just fell over instead of making a proper attempt to save Nick Tsaroulla’s shot. This left The Dons 1-0 down after 16 minutes. However, from that point on MacGillivray stepped up. He made a number of big saves throughout the rest of the game to keep the score line close.
RWB – Cameron Norman – 5: Looked good on the ball and showed a willingness to get forward but was shaky in defence at times. Was strong in his aerial battles but his defensive positioning left a lot to be desired and there was a lot of indecisive defending in the lead up to both of Crawley’s goals between Norman, Warren O’Hora and Alex Gilbey. Particularly for the second goal, Norman easily could’ve prevented it had he followed his man.
RCB – Warren O’Hora – 4.5: Unusually off the pace for a lot of the game. He put the effort in and was good in possession but was far too static with his defending with the best example being Crawley’s second goal where between O’Hora and Norman, they didn’t track Danilo Orsi as he ran into the box and went on to receive the ball and score, making it 2-1 after 52 minutes. He was also caught totally out of possession for the first goal and failed to track his man then as well.
CB – Jack Tucker – 6: Cut out plenty of attacks on his own with a mixture of good anticipation, strength and composure. He did have a couple of shaky moments but was usually able to recover. Probably the most accurate in terms of playing long balls forward but he still did hit a few inaccurate ones. Unfortunate to be the man taken off after 60 minutes as Graham Alexander switched to a new formation. Ashley Hunter came on for Tucker to add extra firepower at the other end of the pitch.
LCB – Tommy Smith – 7 (TOP DON): Another solid game from the experienced defender. He put his body on the line time and time again, including on one occasion where it looked like Crawley would be through on goal but Smith got his body in the way and won a free-kick for his troubles. He was sometimes a little slow coming out to support Daniel Harvie whenever Crawley switched the play but he limited major chances from his side of the pitch to a minimum. Not at fault for either of the goals and played the ball about nicely with the exception of a couple of rogue balls forward.
LWB – Daniel Harvie – 5.5: Had a lot to do in the first half, with Crawley regularly attacking down his wing in numbers. He did sometimes need a bit of extra support to hold off the attacks but he just about did enough. He looked comfortable on the ball but was sometimes slow to release it and a few of his passes were questionable. However, he was also involved in a lot of the build-up play down that side and worked well with the likes of Ethan Robson and Ashley Hunter.
RCM – Alex Gilbey (C) – 6: He put in a lot of effort and pressed till the final whistle. Gilbey covered every blade of grass and gave the Crawley players very little time on the ball in the middle third. With this being said, he did stand off the opposition players at times in the defensive third and he totally missed his challenge in the build-up to Crawley’s second goal. He did try a couple of shots at the other end but couldn’t find the target and got into a fantastic crossing position but managed to send the ball flying off the pitch instead of across goal.
CM – MJ Williams – 5: Partially at fault for Crawley’s first goal as he failed to track the runner whilst he was covering for Warren O’Hora but made up for it when setting up Mo Eisa for the equaliser, winning the ball and playing the ball forwards for the striker. Like the rest of the midfield he spent a lot of the time chasing shadows as Crawley were efficient in beating the pressing tactics used by Alexander’s men. Williams came off after 86 minutes for Nathan Holland as The Dons looked to add more attacking options in the hopes of finding an equaliser.
LCM – Ethan Robson – 5: Did a lot of running but most of it was chasing the Crawley players, particularly at times when they broke down the left wing with three or four players. He didn’t get as much of the ball as he did in the previous league games and had a limited impact going forwards as a result. He still got a few crosses in the box from set pieces and played some nice passes in the build-up play but lacked the creativity to play that killer pass. He came off after 69 minutes for Dawson Devoy.
RS – Jonathan Leko – 5.5: Twisted and turned to create space in the final third but his end product was mostly lacking. He played a number of crosses into the box but on the one occasion he played a decent ball in, there was no-one at the back post to finish it off. He did shoot a couple of times but he hit it out of the stadium more times than he hit it on target. Leko faded in and out of the game and seemed to go through phases where he would put the effort in and then decide not to run for a couple of minutes.
LS – Mo Eisa – 6: Made it three goals in three games with a composed finish, just about squeezing the ball under Corey Addai to make it 1-1 after 27 minutes. He did have one or two other attempts at goal but he couldn’t hit the target. Apart from this he struggled to get in the game as he regularly had to challenge for headers as The Dons looked to play long ball. Perhaps fortunate not to get another yellow card for kicking the ball away…again.
SUB (LW) – Ashley Hunter – 6: Brought a lot of energy and got involved in a lot of build-up play but didn’t really create any chances from open play. His corners threatened Crawley somewhat but the home side were able to clear their lines eventually. He played the ball about nicely for the most part but did also have a few poor moments in possession. Hunter moved into a central attacking midfield role when Nathan Holland came on. He also picked up a yellow card after the final whistle due to a short confrontation with a Crawley player.
SUB (CM) – Dawson Devoy – 6.5: Looked like a player desperate to make an impact after being an unused sub in the previous fixtures. He nearly made an instant impact when playing a lovely chipped through ball for Alex Gilbey but it was ever so slightly too far in front and Corey Addai was able to collect. Devoy constantly looked to play the ball forwards and he helped push The Dons into the final third with his creativity.
SUB (LW) – Nathan Holland – 4: Brought on to bring energy and quality in the final third and brought neither. Made a few dribbles but didn’t really go anywhere with them, even passing the ball directly to a Crawley player on one occasion.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 5: It wasn’t an enjoyable game to watch. Crawley came with a game plan and executed it well, ironically playing the same way that The Dons are supposed to under Graham Alexander. They were efficient with their passing and Dons simply couldn’t keep up. With this being said, the defence did soak up a lot of pressure and were regularly able to clear their lines. The only problem with this was that there were a lot of aimless balls forward meaning Crawley could just launch another attack and any team would crumble eventually after that many attacks.
Defensively the concern is on that right side. Similarly to the Wrexham game, it’s that gap between Cameron Norman, Warren O’Hora and Alex Gilbey where no-one seems to know who’s supposed to mark the man. The Dons were caught twice in that position on the opening day and were caught twice again in this fixture. The other concern is shooting…or rather shooting on target. Corey Addai didn’t look like a particularly competent goalkeeper but he’s only conceded one in this game. This is because none of the attacking players were able to find the target apart from Mo Eisa on one occasion, and even then it was a weak shot that fortunately trickled across the line. When you’re up against a keeper that doesn’t look confident, you have to at least test them a few times.
Alexander did make use of his subs more frequently which is promising, especially as it enabled a positive performance from a previously unused Dawson Devoy. However, it again highlights the lack of quality in depth as Nathan Holland was unconvincing at best and without a target man, all these long balls getting pumped forwards all game were having very limited effect. There has been a huge overreaction from the fanbase over this loss and ultimately it’s one result in a long season. Crawley have been under-estimated by many, including myself. They have lost once at home in the entirety of 2023 and have evidently improved a lot under Scott Lindsey. It doesn’t make the performance from Dons acceptable, but it does add context.
Crawley play at home again on Saturday against Gillingham who have a perfect record this season so far. That game should give us a better idea of how good that Crawley side were. Equally, The Dons travel to Colchester next who are rock bottom of the league with zero points, albeit with one less game played. There’s a real opportunity to bounce back and it should be a good test of mentality.
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!