Paynes Player Ratings

By Luke Payne, Feature Writer

Payne’s Player Ratings vs Newport (Away):

With the FA Cup out the way, it was back to focusing on the league for Mike Williamson’s men as they travelled out to Wales to visit Newport County. It was a good game, but despite both team’s efforts, it was 0-0 come the full-time whistle. Newport had a small pitch and a clear plan to stop Dons from playing football, but equally, Dons were able to deal with anything Newport threw at them. Here’s how I rated the players after the 0-0 draw at Rodney Parade:

Formation: 5-2-2-1/5-4-1 (Two holding midfielders and two attacking midfielders)

GK – Craig MacGillivray – 7: MacGillivray didn’t really have to make many saves as Newport struggled to hit the target with their efforts. He looked comfortable with the ball at his feet, even with the likes of Omar Bogle, closing him down rapidly. At times, he would only just get the ball away in time, but that’s how he’s been asked to play. He did misplace one pass in the second half, but fortunately, Newport were unable to capitalise on his mistake. A solid clean sheet overall.

RWB – Jonathan Leko – 6: Yes you are reading that correctly! With Jack Tucker out injured, Cameron Norman shifted across to centre-back and it was Jonathan Leko who took position at the right side of defence. For the most part he did stay in position and do his defensive work but he did drift forwards a bit too far at times. He did also have to be told to stay focused by his teammates multiple times from defensive throw-ins. Leko did struggle to beat his man in the early stages of the game but did find ways of getting an extra yard on him as the game went on. However, his crossing was disappointing and most of his efforts sailed way over the top of the Dons attackers in the box. With this being said, he did set up Max Dean for one of the best chances in the game with a low ball across goal.

RCB – Cameron Norman – 5.5: It certainly wasn’t a bad performance from Norman but he was capable of doing a lot more than he did. He played the ball about well enough but probably wasn’t as creative with his passing as he could’ve been and he did play into traps a few times. Newport had a fair amount of success in breaking down the right side, partially due to Leko’s positioning but Norman did sometimes get caught out as well. He went for glory against his former side late on with a shot from well outside the box but his effort flew harmlessly over the bar.

CB – Warren O’Hora – 6.5: Had his work cut out for him as the main man responsible for dealing with Omar Bogle and he just about kept him quiet. Bogle did escape his grasp a couple of times including for Newport’s best chance of the game where he outmuscled O’Hora and proceeded to shoot just wide of the far post. However, O’Hora deserves a lot of credit for stepping into the role of Jack Tucker and doing a good job of playing out from the back under heavy pressure from Newport’s frontline. He even tried a Tucker-esque over the top ball for Max Dean but he put a little too much on it and the Newport keeper was able to collect it just before Dean could get a touch.

LCB – Daniel Harvie – 7: With Newport playing at such a high intensity for most of the game, it was difficult for the wide centre-backs to get forward so naturally Harvie and Norman were quite limited in their impact going forward and had a lot more defensive work to do. Harvie was strong defensively for the most part, though he was beaten once when he came across to try and cover for O’Hora only to get outmanoeuvred by Omar Bogle who fortunately went on to miss the target. Apart from this, Harvie stood firm and even won a few headers against the towering centre forward. Newport seemed to run out of steam in the final ten minutes or so as they played at such high intensity and only had five subs available including a goalkeeper and an academy centre-back. This meant that Harvie could carry the ball into the opposition half a couple of times late on and he helped the team generate late chances.

LWB – Joe Tomlinson – 7.5 (TOP DON): Always looked a threat going forward and created the first big chance of the game, playing Alex Gilbey through on goal with some great vision. He also had a few shots on goal. His best shot was a curling effort from the edge of the box aimed towards the opposite top corner but it was saved and eventually collected by Nick Townsend. Tomlinson did catch the keeper out of position on another occasion and tried to go for goal from a difficult position but couldn’t get his shot on target. However, he was facing away from goal and tried to catch a volley on the spin but went for too much power instead of just aiming it towards goal. He also did his fair share of defensive work and rose highest for a number of headers with some impressive jumping.

CM – MJ Williams – 6.5: His main job was to protect the defence and he did this well, giving Omar Bogle another physical player to worry about. Williams broke up the play well and made it difficult for Newport to play through the middle, though they seemed keen on bypassing the midfield by playing long balls towards their target man. Williams looked assured on the ball but wasn’t progressive enough with his passing at times, delaying playing forward passes when the options were on.

CM – Jack Payne – 7: Put a shift in as usual and was the playmaker for most of The Dons’ better passages of play. He played lots of quick balls around corners to help create angles in behind. Payne did struggle towards the end of the first half as Dons tried to match Newport’s physical style of play which quickly saw the hosts start to gain some momentum. However by the second half, Payne was able to start enforcing ‘The MK Way’ in the middle third again.

CAM – Alex Gilbey – 6.5: A tough one to give a rating to as he was involved in creating most of Dons best chances but he also wasted a lot of those same chances. Gilbey’s first opportunity came when Tomlinson played a ball in for him but Gilbey messed up his touch and Nick Townsend was able to collect the ball before The Dons captain could recover. Gilbey then got a second chance when Newport failed to clear their lines and the ball fell to him in the box but Gilbey’s effort was again denied by Townsend. Finally, he was involved in the last major chance of the game, getting onto Conor Grant’s through ball towards the right side of the box. He tried to play it back across goal towards Mo Eisa but the striker couldn’t get a touch on it. It may have been worth taking a shot instead.

CAM – Conor Grant – 7: Worked extremely well alongside Tomlinson and the pair got a lot of success down the left wing together. Grant was confident in carrying the ball forward. He did mess it up a few times and gave away possession too easily but equally when it did work for him Dons had some of their best chances of the game. The best example of this was towards the end when he drove into the opposition half with the ball and played a lovely through ball for Gilbey which ultimately led to nothing. However Grant held up his end of the bargain and created the chances, he just needed someone to finish them off.

ST – Max Dean – 6.5: Had to work incredibly hard just to get on the ball with Newport’s defenders eager to bully him out of the game as much as possible. He came short a number of times to get involved in the build-up play and he did eventually get some space in the box to work with. His first effort was a shot towards the bottom corner from a Leko cross with Dean making it an awkward one for the keeper but Nick Townsend was still able to pull of the save. Dean did get another chance in the second half but he took too long and his effort was blocked. He came off for Mo Eisa after 87 minutes.

SUB (ST) – Mo Eisa – 6: Had very limited time to make an impact but nearly made his cameo appearance count when he helped break through down the left wing before sprinting into the box to give Gilbey an option for the final ball. Gilbey did opt to pass but Eisa couldn’t quite get a touch on it. Arguably Eisa could’ve anticipated the pass a little quicker but equally he may have been offside if he went sooner.

TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6.5: This was a respectable performance from the whole team. Dons restricted Newport to efforts that were mostly pot shots and created a number of chances down the other end as well. The end product of a few individuals was disappointing but Dons were able to carry out their style of play for most of the game with the only major concern being the latter stages of the first half where Dons tried to match Newport’s physicality which was a battle only Newport were going to win.

With a small pitch and an opponent that were keen to press, playing possession football could’ve easily been a disaster but Dons dealt with the pressure well. They did play into some traps like they did at Reading in the FA Cup but nowhere near as frequently and there was clear evidence that it’s being worked on. There were nearly a few major errors at the back but those are the teething issues that will always come with adapting to playing this brand of football. It’s two points lost given the chances that were missed but equally it’s a good point against a well-organised side that had a clear game plan.

With all this being said, it’s worth talking about the subs. As previously mentioned, Newport only had three senior outfield players on the bench and their starting players looked exhausted by the 75th minute. Meanwhile, Dons had a full bench available but only used it when Newport eventually made a sub in the 86th minute. It’s starting to look like a habit of Mike Williamson’s to make reactive subs, bringing on a player whenever the opposition do. In a game like this where Dons could’ve outlasted Newport with some fresh legs, it’s a little disappointing that Williamson wasn’t proactive with his subs as he could’ve easily brought on Dawson Devoy for MJ Williams when Dons were starting to control the game in the late stages. Other attacking options included Darragh Burns and Matt Dennis. They might’ve provided a boost as Newport were starting to struggle having pressed hard all game. Instead Dons allowed the tempo of the game to slow down which gave Newport enough of a chance to see out the draw.

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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