By Luke Payne, Feature Writer
Stockport were the next side to visit Stadium MK as The Dons looked to maintain the unbeaten home status. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and Graham Alexander’s men fell to a 2-1 defeat without putting up too much of a fight. Here’s how I rated the players after the loss at home to Stockport:
Formation: 5-3-2 (Switched to 5-2-3 after 66 minutes)
GK – Craig MacGillivray – 6.5: Nothing he really could’ve done about either of the goals and he did make a couple of big saves. He did block one shot into the path of another opposition player but the secondary effort went flying over the bar. MacGillivray didn’t have too much to do in terms of distribution as he usually just tapped the ball to Jack Tucker and let the centre-back play the ball out instead.
RWB – Cameron Norman – 4: Had one good moment in the first half where he worked with Alex Gilbey to break down the right and get a shot on goal but that was about as good as it got for Norman. He let former Don Louie Barry run straight past him for the first goal. As a result Ibou Touray was able to play the ball in to Barry who proceeded to rifle it into the back of the net, making it 0-1 after 17 minutes. Norman then failed to challenge Nick Powell in an aerial duel and Powell was able to put Stockport back in the lead with the resulting header, making it 1-2 after 45 minutes and 2 minutes of added time. He also spent a lot of the game playing deeper which made it difficult to attack down the right. This did improve somewhat in the second half but Norman wouldn’t get to finish the game as he came off for Joe Tomlinson after 66 minutes.
RCB – Warren O’Hora – 4.5: Although Norman was directly at fault for both goals, O’Hora also has to take some of the blame. He was in a position to chase Louie Barry down for the first goal but gave up far too easily, instead stopping to give Norman a dirty look for letting Barry through in the first place. He also could’ve done more to challenge Nick Powell for the second goal, as the Stockport forward was stood directly behind O’Hora’s position and the centre-back should’ve at least been able to challenge for the header, even if he didn’t win it. O’Hora did win a header down the other end from a corner but his effort was miles away from the target. He pushed right up into Stockport’s half in the closing minutes as Dons searched for an equaliser but he was unable to fashion any chances.
CB – Jack Tucker – 5: He made a few awful mistakes in possession but seemed to recover well more often than not. He won most of his aerial battles and tested Stockport’s defence with a few diagonal balls forward to the likes of Daniel Harvie. While he will be heavily criticised for the mistakes he made, he was also usually the one breaking down Stockport’s attacks so some credit is due.
LCB – Tommy Smith – 5.5: Had a poor start to the game with a few silly mistakes but eventually settled and did a decent job at keeping Stockport out. He managed to delay a dangerous Stockport break for long enough so Tucker could get back and put a tackle in, though it was Tucker who gave away possession in the first place. Smith played an important part in The Dons’ equalising goal, as he got on the end of Ethan Robson’s ball into the box. From there Smith was able to head the ball back across goal and into the path of Mo Eisa who finished off the move. He played a lot of long balls forward but the majority of these were lacking in accuracy and left the likes of Ellis Harrison and Max Dean with a lot to do.
LWB – Daniel Harvie – 5.5: Struggled for consistency in the first half but he did offer a decent outlet down the left. He did struggle to keep tabs on his man at times but he did also have a lot of freedom going forwards down the other end. He played a number of good crosses into the box that weren’t attacked properly by The Dons’ forwards and he seemed to operate well with Jack Payne playing alongside him.
CM – Alex Gilbey – 5: Not at his best but very few in the team were. He showed an intent to get stuck in and intent to attack but struggled to make any of that work in the first half as he made lots of mistakes in possession. His second half was an improvement and he did a decent job carrying the ball forward. He got himself into a great position on the byline late in the half but he wasn’t able to pick out a Dons man with his cutback. He did also gain a silly yellow card for a rogue sliding challenge by the halfway line.
CM – Dawson Devoy – 7 (TOP DON): Seems to have picked up a lot of unnecessary hate for this result but he was by far the brightest spark in the first half. He operated in a deep-lying playmaker role and helped the team to play out of defence, particularly from goal-kicks. He did get it wrong on a couple of occasions but without him there the team would’ve been overrun as we soon found out after he was withdrawn for Jack Payne after 66 minutes. Devoy played a fantastic weighted ball over the top for Mo Eisa in the first half but the striker could only hit the post with the resulting chance.
CM – Ethan Robson – 6: A difficult one to give a rating to. He put a shift in and seemed to pop up everywhere as he looked to gain control of the midfield. Robson played the ball into the box for The Dons’ goal following a set piece routine with Devoy. However, later in the half it was Robson’s man that was able to get a free cross into the box for Nick Powell’s goal. He did have a couple of attempts on goal over the course of the game but he couldn’t seem to connect with the ball properly. He was replaced by Max Dean after 66 minutes as The Dons switched to a 5-2-3.
RS – Jonathan Leko – 4: For the first 20 minutes he put some effort in, making the right runs and dropping deep to collect the ball in order to turn and catch Stockport on the break. After that he went back to his usual lazy attitude and failed to press effectively countless times where there were good opportunities to do so. As a result he was taken off at half-time with Ellis Harrison coming on to replace him.
LS – Mo Eisa – 6: Showed up in the right place at the right time to grab the equaliser, bundling home from Smith’s header to make it 1-1 after 26 minutes. He had another chance on goal later in the half, taking a touch from Devoy’s through ball but Eisa hit the post with his shot and couldn’t quite fashion another opportunity from the rebound. He stayed on the left side of the front three following the formation change but struggled to get into the game and seemed to occupy the same spaces as Ellis Harrison and Max Dean.
SUB (RS/ST) – Ellis Harrison – 6.5: Brought a lot more energy onto the field following Leko’s departure and his quick pressing helped Dons to win the ball just a few seconds after kick-off. Harrison maintained these energy levels but was limited for service with most of the balls forward being hoofed vaguely in his direction. He did well to win a lot of his headers but none of the other Dons forwards seemed to be sharp enough to reach the knock-ons Harrison was playing. He did have one shot on goal as the ball bobbled around the box but his effort was wide of the mark.
SUB (RWB) – Joe Tomlinson – 4.5: Showed attacking intent but didn’t seem like that much of an improvement on Norman. He tried a very speculative shot on goal that was well off-target but didn’t offer that much else despite playing much further up the pitch. He seemed to float just behind Max Dean but he didn’t see too much of the ball as Dons frequently looked to play long ball. Tomlinson did also leave his marker with plenty of space for one of Stockport’s counter-attacks but fortunately MacGillivray saved the resulting shot.
SUB (CM) – Jack Payne – 7: Was given a huge role to play as Dons switched to a two man midfield. Within a minute of coming on he was able to win multiple set-pieces down the Stockport end including a corner. He took a number of corners and put all of them in dangerous areas but Dons weren’t able to convert any of them. Payne was constantly looking to play the ball forward and was the catalyst for almost all of The Dons’ best attacks. He did have one shot on goal after cleverly skipping away from his man and his shot forced a big save out of Ben Hinchliffe. In addition to all of this he was quick to track back and protect the defence whenever Stockport looked to attack.
SUB (RS) – Max Dean – 5.5: Showed the right commitment and energy but struggled to make anything from the limited service he was given. Most of the balls played to him were in the air so he had to try and outsmart his marker rather than trying to win the aerial duels. He was able to retain the ball a few times in these advanced positions but had very little support.
TEAM PERFORMANCE – 4.5: The first half was probably the poorest half of football so far this season with a number of the team playing badly in addition to the entire team having a meltdown for a few minutes after Stockport scored the first goal. No-one seemed willing to work together to get back into the game with the exception of the midfielders who were regularly bypassed as Dons seemed to insist on playing long ball. The right side of defence was a mess for the entirety of the match and it was somewhat surprising that it took 66 minutes for one of those defenders to be replaced. There were obvious gaps on that side from a defensive point of view but there was also very limited creativity on that side as well. Cameron Norman seems to refuse to play a forward pass unless it’s directly down the line.
As bad as the team were, I do think there was a tactical oversight in the second half that prevented Dons from getting anywhere near an equaliser. The triple substitution was understandable as Graham Alexander knew he needed to make attacking changes. However, taking Dawson Devoy off proved to be a massive mistake. This left Dons with a two man midfield meaning that Alex Gilbey and Jack Payne were limited in terms of how much they could attack without jeopardising the defence. This made it difficult to play through the middle as the midfield were stretched so thin with no Devoy sat in behind. In addition to this, Mo Eisa, Ellis Harrison and Max Dean all seemed to be operating very close to one another which made for quite a crowded area at the heart of Stockport’s defence. None of this could then be corrected because the only outfield subs left were Dean Lewington and Anthony Stewart.
The right move probably would’ve been to take off a centre-back and switch to a back four, operating in a 4-3-3 with Devoy sat in front of the two centre-backs. However, if someone like Conor Grant had been on the bench then this mistake could’ve easily been fixed later in the game. Having three defenders on the bench is far too negative, especially when two of them are centre-backs. It also limits how much the midfield can be changed as there was only one midfielder on the bench. It’s disappointing because that game was very winnable and Dons are capable of playing far better than that. Stockport didn’t look like anything special but ultimately they took their chances when they came and then didn’t make any mistakes at the back. With a game against Oxford coming up next in the EFL Trophy, it will be interesting to see if the players are properly motivated as they didn’t seem up for this fixture with Stockport.
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!