Paynes Player Ratings Bradford

Before I begin I just want to once again give my thanks to Jonathan Harries and Chris Turner for their marvellous efforts in carrying on the series in my absence. They have been a huge help and have both produced some top quality content and I’m extremely grateful for that! With that being said, let’s get back into the ratings!

I’m back… and so are MK Dons! After a long run of poor results, The Dons were finally able to secure three points on Mike Williamson’s home debut as head coach of the club. Bradford were the unfortunate opposition who had to face the Milton Keynes outfit that seemed to have a new aura of confidence about them. In a rather unusual scenario, Bradford’s caretaker player/manager started the game in central midfield due to injuries within their squad but he was unable to stop his side from falling to a 4-1 defeat courtesy of Williamson and co. Here’s how I rated the players after the home victory over Bradford:

Formation: 5-2-2-1/5-4-1 depending on which way you look at it, the midfield operated with two holding midfielders and two narrow attacking midfielders.

GK – Craig MacGillivray – 8: Had very little to do in terms of shot-stopping but he had a more prominent role in possession than he’s used to and did it very well. His distribution was significantly more accurate at both short and long range. He did manage to get a hand to Alex Gilliead’s shot for Bradford’s goal but it wasn’t enough to keep it out. However, it would be harsh to blame him for the goal as he was left in an awkward position due to a mistake in possession from his defenders.

RWB – Cameron Norman – 8: Had his work cut out for him as his marker was rapid but he dealt with him extremely well and never let him break down the right wing. He contributed to the possession play effectively and battled throughout, even losing a tooth in the process! Perhaps he let a couple of crosses through that he could’ve prevented but apart from that he had a very solid game.

RCB – Warren O’Hora – 7.5: For the most part his defensive work was good, but similarly to Norman, he let a couple of crosses past him that he probably should’ve stopped. However, he was blatantly at fault for Bradford’s goal, holding onto the ball too long in his own half and subsequently losing possession which left Jack Tucker and Daniel Harvie in a very tricky position, having to decide whether to close Alex Gilliead down and let their markers go or stay put and hope Ethan Robson could get back quickly enough to prevent the shot. They opted for the latter and Gilliead capitalised by finding the bottom corner, making it 1-1 after 17 minutes. Notably, O’Hora’s head didn’t drop after this and he kept fighting, a stark contrast to previous games this season.

CB – Jack Tucker – 8: Defended well and controlled his area of the pitch very well. A couple of his clearances were a bit suspect and he did make one poor error in possession but none of this was fatal and he carried on playing the ball out from the back, regularly making good decisions on when to pass to the man coming short and when to go long or diagonal. He kept Andy Cook quiet and was simultaneously the starting point for a lot of Dons’ possession play.

LCB – Daniel Harvie – 8: Worked wonderfully as Tomlinson’s support player, always providing another passing option and his play in possession was good barring a couple of small mistakes with his passing. He ventured forward into Bradford’s half a number of times and made himself look like a threat without jeopardising his defensive duties.

LWB – Joe Tomlinson – 9.5 (TOP DON): By far his best appearance for The Dons to date. He was sharp both in and out of possession and he regularly cut out passes with a fantastic display of anticipation. Tomlinson set the tone early by opening the scoring, getting on the end of Jack Payne’s long ground pass from a corner. The wingback decided to shoot with his first touch and he was able to guide the ball vaguely towards the bottom corner despite all of the bodies ahead of him in the box. This made it 1-0 after 4 minutes. Shortly afterwards he had another shot on goal that struck the post after he cut inside. Tomlinson was regularly able to get into these advanced positions and he popped up again in the second half for Max Dean’s goal, supplying a well-weighted cross towards the front post. He did all of this without neglecting his defensive duties so a top draw performance all around!

CM – Alex Gilbey (C) – 9: Led by example, showing passion, aggression and tenacity throughout. He got stuck in with his challenges but also dictated the tempo of play, bringing the likes of Norman, Jack Payne and Ethan Robson into the game. Like the rest of the team he looked sharp and was eventually rewarded late in the game when he intercepted a sloppy pass from a Bradford defender and charged towards the box, finding the bottom corner from his one-on-one to make it 4-1 after 90 minutes.

CM – Ethan Robson – 8.5: Showed the side of his game that had been missing since the Wrexham away fixture. He was aggressive with his pressing and seemed to unnerve Bradford a little bit when he came charging forwards with his teammates in support. Equally, he looked comfortable on the ball and regularly found spaces in the middle of the pitch to operate in. His performance will go under the radar but he did a lot of the groundwork to help Dons be as dominant as they were in this fixture. He came off after 89 minutes for Dawson Devoy.

CAM – Jack Payne – 9: Showcased his ability with a confident dynamic performance. He provided the assist for the opening goal, picking out Tomlinson in space on the edge of the box from a corner. Payne would then help Dons take the lead again later in the half when he rifled a free-kick into the top corner from a free-kick, cleverly swerving the ball in a manner that was too awkward for Harry Lewis to deal with. This made it 2-1 after 31 minutes. He did have a chance to get a second goal when he broke through the middle but a slightly heavy touch made him feel like he had to rush his shot and his effort was saved comfortably by Lewis. However, it was his movement in deeper areas that deserves extra plaudits as he regularly dropped into the pockets of space just in front of the defence and provided an easy route out by moving the ball on with one touch passes, ensuring that any Bradford press would be ineffective.

CAM – Conor Grant – 7.5: Started the game well with some well worked passing moves alongside the likes of Tomlinson, Robson and Max Dean. He completed a few clever flick-ons across the course of the match but there were also a lot of things he tried that got cut out pretty easily. He pressed consistently well but did start to lose his impact in possession as time went on. He was the first man to make way for a substitute with MJ Williams coming on to replace him after 62 minutes.

ST – Max Dean – 9: Worked extremely hard all game and found a way to overcome the Bradford defenders that were trying to play him out of the game with their physicality. Dean regularly played one touch passes around the corners, creating new angles for his teammates and helping the team to advance towards the final third quickly and efficiently. He did grow frustrated in the first half and was fortunate not to be punished for kicking out at a Bradford defender after Dean thought he was fouled one too many times. However, by the second half he had calmed down and started to channel his energy properly. He had a number of shots across the course of the game and easily could’ve had a hat-trick.

His first effort came in the first half when he was denied in a one-on-one against Harry Lewis. Then, in the second half he was denied again by an outstanding save from Lewis to tip Dean’s effort onto the bar from close range. Dean then had a third effort denied by the post before he finally made his mark, wonderfully volleying home a Tomlinson cross at the front post to make it 3-1 after 59 minutes. His industrious attitude and desire to get on the ball made him the perfect focal point for The Dons’ attacking play. He came off to a standing ovation after 77 minutes with Mo Eisa taking his place.

SUB – MJ Williams – 9: May have been limited to a substitute appearance but the work he did cannot be overstated. When he came on, Gilbey moved into the other attacking midfield role so Williams could sit in the holding role. Williams broke down the play brilliantly, turning over possession around the halfway line countless times. He did nearly break through on goal on one occasion but was outpaced by a Bradford defender.

SUB – Mo Eisa – 5.5: Perhaps seems a little harsh as he was limited for service but equally he didn’t put himself about the same way that Dean did. Eisa chased a lot of loose ends and did have one effort on goal that he should’ve done better with. He did press at times but seemed to want to wait till Bradford got to a certain point before deciding to press. Not as effective as he probably should’ve been.

SUB – Dawson Devoy – 6: A late change so hard to give him a high rating but he brought the energy levels back up with his introduction. He pressed aggressively and did nearly get into a shooting position but the pass to him was intercepted.

TEAM PERFORMANCE – 9: This was the best performance of the season, even ahead of the opening day win over Wrexham. With four goals from four different goal-scorers and four more shots that hit the woodwork it’s safe to say that The Dons’ attacking output was impressive. The promising thing is that it easily could’ve been more, though there is some concern that a number of the easier chances were wasted. Having four men operating in midfield gave Dons total control of the middle of the pitch and as a result the likes of Alex Gilbey, Ethan Robson and Jack Payne were able to dictate the tempo of play. This meant Dons could very quickly turn defence into attack and it was this fast dynamic play that seemed to be Bradford’s doing as they appeared disjointed and notably unorganised. Perhaps a more settled side would’ve put up more of a fight but you can only play what’s in front of you and Dons showed a ruthlessness that’s been missing for some time.

It was a successful game from a defensive point of view as well with Bradford not really testing MacGillivray at all apart from their goal. This was the result of another error in possession which seems to be a recurring theme at the minute but what’s changed is the mentality of the players. At 1-1, heads could’ve dropped very easily as they have in plenty of Dons’ other games but each and every man stood tall and kept fighting. It was that kind of attitude and determination that gave Williamson’s men purpose and they did everything in their power to secure the result, which is all a fan can ask for. The important thing now is to maintain this mentality as it takes enormous levels of confidence to play persistent possession football. Of course this is just one positive result with plenty of games left to play, but there are certainly signs that the MK Dons we know and love could be returning to us!

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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