Payne’s Player Ratings vs Chelsea U-21’s (Home) – EFL Trophy Edition:
First things first, thanks to Jonathan Harries for stepping in and covering the last couple of fixtures in my absence. My return to the ratings covers The Dons’ opening EFL Trophy game against the Chelsea youngsters. A rotated Dons team took to the field and came out on top with a 4-1 victory. Here’s how I rated the players after The Dons beat Chelsea Under 21’s at Stadium MK:
GK – Nathan Harness – 6.5: Had a shaky start to the game, nearly dropping the ball straight into the path of a Chelsea striker but he was quick to recover and claim the ball. His distribution was questionable at times and he did seem to hit a lot of long balls forward aimlessly. Harness had a lot to do in the second half and made a number of big saves to prevent a Chelsea comeback. He did have an injury scare after one of his saves but carried on and saw the game out.
RWB – Phoenix Scholtz – 5.5: Had a rough first half and was probably the biggest culprit for Chelsea’s goal, giving his man far too much time and space to cross the ball in. As a result Jimmy-Jay Morgan was able to get on the end of the cross and score, making it 1-1 after 32 minutes. Scholtz struggled to stick tight to his man for the entire half but was sometimes able to recover. His second half was an improvement and he played the ball about nicely for the most part including in the build-up to Dons’ second goal where he broke quickly with Jonathan Leko and swung in a dangerous cross that the keeper could only parry into Leko’s path.
RCB – Callum Tripp – 6: Did a reasonably good job playing out of position again. He made a number of tackles and looked composed on the ball, though he was perhaps playing too many safe passes in the first half instead of looking to play forwards. He did get beaten for pace a few times but he covered Phoenix Scholtz well and seemed to settle in the second half, playing with more confidence.
CB – Jack Tucker – 8: Looked levels above anything Chelsea U-21’s had to offer, reading the game extremely well to prevent shots on goal, counter-attacks and aerial threats. He had an answer to every question and was able to play the ball out from the back, simultaneously defusing any half-hearted press the Chelsea forwards attempted. He came off after 62 minutes for Warren O’Hora.
LCB – Dean Lewington (C) – 6: Dons fans were delighted to see this man’s name on the team sheet again after his time out injured. However, he did look a bit rusty having missed so much of pre-season. He struggled to keep up with Chelsea’s forwards and wasn’t as dominant in the air as he probably should’ve been. He usually did enough to cut out any danger but at times it was more through luck than judgment. Lewington came off after 62 minutes for Charlie Waller.
LWB – Brooklyn Ilunga – 8.5 (TOP DON): Ilunga took a few minutes to get going but once he settled he was fantastic. He was sharp both in and out of possession which enabled him to pop up wherever he was needed to cut out an attack or play the next pass. He showed off his pace regularly and beat his man a number of times with a quick hit and run. However, he put the same effort into his defending, sprinting back to prevent counter-attacks and get back into position. He capped off his performance with a goal-line clearance in a one-on-one scenario with Nathan Harness already in no-man’s land. Ilunga darted back to the goal-line to get in the way of the Chelsea forward’s shot. The play was eventually called back for offside but Ilunga didn’t know that when he went to protect his goal.
CM – Dawson Devoy – 7: One of the standout players of the first half. He dictated play for most of the half, moving the ball on quickly and regularly beating any press Chelsea attempted. Devoy set up Matt Dennis for the opening goal after winning possession and playing a fantastic ball forward. He also doubled-up as the main midfielder for breaking up play. He became less effective as the game went on but he didn’t make many mistakes.
CM – Conor Grant – 6: Inconsistent is the only way Grant’s performance can be described. He played some good passes and made some good tackles but countered those with some awful passes and half-hearted tackles. He was playing a deeper role than he’s used to but against inexperienced opposition he probably should’ve been able to control the play better. He was credited with the assist for The Dons’ fourth goal but it was perhaps a bit lucky.
RW – Jonathan Leko – 7: Contributed with a goal and an assist. He started the move for his goal with a good bit of hold-up play that enabled him to release Phoenix Scholtz down the right. Eventually the ball came back to Leko in the box and he put it away at the second time of asking, making it 2-1 after 56 minutes. He then set up Max Dean for the third goal with a well-placed through ball. Leko did test the Chelsea keeper on a couple of occasions but his attempts were saved. Despite some of his hold-up play being effective, he does need to work on his first touch as he was crowded off the ball too many times after taking a poor touch from long balls during spells where Chelsea were on top. He came off for Joel Anker after 72 minutes.
ST – Matt Dennis – 7: Took his goal very well, getting on the end of Devoy’s ball forward before beating his man and finding the bottom corner, making it 1-0 after 9 minutes. Dennis looked good on the ball throughout and was often able to create space, enabling Dons to push forward in numbers. However, his work rate was lacking at times and he spent too long offside after making runs that weren’t utilised. With that being said, whenever he committed to pressing he showed an impressive display of speed that forced mistakes out of the Chelsea defenders. He came off for Max Dean after 62 minutes.
LW – Ashley Hunter – 6.5: Had everything apart from the final touch. Hunter made all of the right runs and got himself in the right positions but never seemed to finish off a move. He played the ball about nicely in possession and was very effective off the ball with his relentless pressing. However, he did pick up a silly yellow card for a reckless challenge. He put a shift in and maintained his high energy levels for the entirety of the match.
SUB (CB) – Warren O’Hora – 7.5: After a couple of shaky displays in the league he looked much better in this fixture. He led an inexperienced back line of players well and carried on from where Jack Tucker left off.
SUB (LCB) – Charlie Waller – 5.5: Didn’t play badly at all but nerves perhaps got the better of him at times with the majority of his passes going wayward. With this being said he defended well and prevented a number of breaks down the left.
SUB (ST) – Max Dean – 7.5: Scored a brace to help Dons seal the win. For his first goal he got on the end of Jonathan Leko’s through ball and swiftly rifled the ball into the back of the net, giving the Chelsea keeper little time to react making it 3-1 after 70 minutes. He then got his second 9 minutes later, getting on the end of a loose ball before curling it around the keeper from inside the box making it 4-1 after 79 minutes. He showed great enthusiasm and moved swiftly about the pitch but the rest of his game wasn’t quite as impressive as his finishing. He played a few dodgy passes and slipped a few times whilst trying to press. However, once he was in a shooting position he was near unstoppable.
SUB (RW) – Joel Anker – 6.5: Looked good on the ball and gave Dons a few chances to attack quickly with his close control and accurate passing. Contributed to an effective pressing system alongside Ashley Hunter and Max Dean.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 7: Perhaps a bit harsh for a 4-1 win but with respect, Chelsea U-21’s weren’t the most difficult opposition Dons will face in this competition. Most of the senior players looked solid and all of the senior forwards scored with the exception of Ashley Hunter. In addition to this Chelsea’s goal was from the mistake of an academy player so the first team players held firm at the back as well.
The Chelsea players were all good individually. They were quick with their feet and could pass the ball about well. However, their team were missing some important fundamentals such as an effective press so in that respect it was like a training game. Against league opposition, this Dons’ performance would’ve likely resulted in a much closer score. With that being said, you can only play what’s in front of you and most of Graham Alexander’s men applied themselves well and got the job done.
The promising thing is the individual performances coming from the likes of Brooklyn Ilunga and Max Dean. Based on this game, they would be able to do a job in a league fixture which is somewhat re-assuring on the squad depth front. Hopefully there will still be more incoming’s before the transfer window closes but at the very least, a couple of the players already at the club could be better than we’re giving them credit for.
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!
Payne’s Player Ratings vs Chelsea U-21’s (Home) – EFL Trophy Edition: