Paynes Player Ratings Colchester

There’s nothing quite like Boxing Day football. Everyone’s in good spirits after Christmas Day and looking forward to seeing the team they love in action. In particular it was a special day for the one and only Dean Lewington who broke the record for the most league appearances for a single club. Colchester were the lucky club to visit Stadium MK on such a momentous occasion but they were unable to spoil the party. Mike Williamson’s men struggled to find their shooting boots but eventually came out with a 1-0 win courtesy of Ellis Harrison. Here’s how I rated the player’s after the action concluded:

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

GK – Craig MacGillivray – 7: There were some long spells where MacGillivray had nothing to do but he stayed sharp throughout, as was evident by the saves he made in the second half. He did technically get beaten once after he made a low save from John Akinde’s shot but could only parry it into the path of Tom Hopper who bundled the ball into the back of the net. However, the goal didn’t stand due to offside. Had the goal stood, it would’ve been a last minute equaliser for Colchester. It’s also worth noting that MacGillivray is looking more and more confident with his feet every game. This makes it much easier to play out from the back and came in handy at times when Colchester tried to press.

RWB – Cameron Norman – 7: Did a lot more attacking than defending with Dons controlling play for most of the game. He got into some good positions and should’ve had a goal in the second half, when he fired wide from close range following a cross from Joe Tomlinson. Previously he had another chance that he played back across goal. Admittedly both of these were difficult to execute accurately and he did play his part in creating a number of other chances, including setting up Alex Gilbey for his major double chance in the first half. Norman came off for Ellis Harrison after 78 minutes as Dons looked for a winner. There was no formation change but Gilbey filled in at wingback to accommodate the switch.

RCB – MJ Williams – 7.5: He’s starting to look more natural playing in the back three and his passing expertise were certainly required in a game where Dons had to really work the ball to find gaps in Colchester’s defence. His defensive work was solid for the most part though he did get unlucky with a ball or two deflecting in favour of the Colchester attackers. Williams picked up his usual yellow card early in the second half in an attempt to prevent a counter-attack. He was one of the defenders to play on the edge of the opposition box late in the game as Dons tried to open the scoring.

CB – Warren O’Hora – 8: A standout player again, coming in with some vital tackles as well as outstanding composure to pass his way out of danger whenever Colchester looking to pickpocket him. He did get caught high up the pitch on one occasion in the second half but he was a little bit unlucky as he won his challenge but the ball bobbled just out of his reach and Colchester were able to spring a counter-attack that fortunately led to nothing. O’Hora was the start point of a lot of attacks and he had a lot of control over the tempo of the game, passing it about from the halfway line.

LCB – Dean Lewington (C) – 8 (TOP DON): A fitting way to break a record. Lewington was strong in his tackles as ever and good on the ball as well. He offered Joe Tomlinson a lot of support and even popped up on the corner of the opposition box a few times to play the next ball or get a cross in. Lewington did swing in a lovely cross towards the back post in the second half but unfortunately it wasn’t directed goal-wards. The only part of his game that could use some improvement was his fist pumps in the post-match celebrations. Usually Mike Williamson would celebrate a win with three fist pumps to get the crowd going but the head coach encouraged the skipper to take his place instead, a decision that was met with a lot of love from the fans. Lewington reluctantly obliged being his introverted self but it was a moment he’ll surely treasure for a long time. Captain, Leader, Legend!

LWB – Joe Tomlinson – 7: Like many others on the pitch he struggled with his shooting, firing one wide in the first half. However, Tomlinson created a number of chances for the likes of Cameron Norman, Jonathan Leko and Max Dean. He did give possession away cheaply a few times but he was also much more forward-thinking with his passing than a lot of his teammates. He was involved in a lot of lovely one and two touch passages high up the pitch which regularly enabled him to break into the congested Colchester box. No goal contributions on this occasion but another solid performance regardless.

CM – Jack Payne – 7.5: Probably one of his quieter games in recent times but he showed up when it mattered most. Payne had a slow start to the game, misplacing passes far too many times in the middle and defensive thirds. However, as he grew into the game, Dons started to dominate the ball and dictate the tempo of play. He played countless balls into dangerous positions and was involved in creating chances for the likes of Alex Gilbey, Max Dean, Jonathan Leko and Mo Eisa. In the end it was Ellis Harrison who would make the most of Payne’s service. Payne whipped in a free-kick towards the back post from the right side of the pitch, a fantastic ball that Harrison would go on to score from. Payne’s relentless energy kept Dons ticking from start to finish.

CM – Ethan Robson – 6.5: Similarly to Payne, Robson had a few poor moments in possession but he also contributed a lot to The Dons’ build-up play. He didn’t look to play forward anywhere near as much as Payne but what he did do was ensure that Dons were always able to play the ball about in Colchester’s half, rotating the ball from side to side probing for an opening.

CAM – Alex Gilbey – 6: Worked hard as usual and created a lot of chances. However, when he had the chance to score he didn’t take it. He shot from the right side of the box, following a pass across from Norman. He hit it straight at Owen Goodman in the Colchester goal before the ball rebounded straight back to Gilbey and then he hit it straight at Goodman again. This should’ve put Dons 1-0 in the first half and would’ve changed the tone of the match entirely. Most of the attacking players in The Dons side were doing everything right up until the finish and Gilbey was the perfect example of this. He went through all the right processes and contributed to some wonderful passages of play to get into good positions but simply couldn’t get that final ball right.

CAM – Jonathan Leko – 6: Started the game with an intent to make a difference and looked to be a standout player for the opening half an hour. As half-time approached though, Leko started to give the ball away in good positions far too frequently which allowed Colchester to have a good spell before the break. He had a bright start to the second half as well but was brought off when his level started to drop again, coming off for Mo Eisa after 69 minutes. Leko had a few shots on goal over the course of the game but struggled for accuracy. With this being said, his willingness to take his man on did get Dons into some good positions, even if he didn’t always get it right.

ST – Max Dean – 6.5: Dean had a rare off-day in terms of his finishing, having a number of shots on goal but not being able to convert any of them. His best chance of the game was cut off by some good defending from a Colchester defender, sliding in to get their foot in the way as Dean pulled the trigger. Dean was visibly frustrated as he was being pushed about a bit by the opposition defenders and he did start flying into a few tackles, most of which fortunately were clean. He did eventually pick up a booking for pulling his man down. What Dean did particularly well in this game was getting in behind Colchester’s defence even at times when they were penned into their own box. He forced the issue as much as he could which helped Dons to keep total control of the game. Dean moved into one of the attacking midfield roles when Mo Eisa came on.

SUB (ST/CAM) – Mo Eisa – 6: Looked lively when he came on and looked keen to make the most of his opportunity back on the pitch. He got into some good positions and created some half-chances as well as setting up Max Dean for his best chance of the game. He moved into an attacking midfield role when Ellis Harrison came on.

SUB (ST) – Ellis Harrison – 7: Harrison had limited time to make a difference but when his chance did come, he took it. He got into some good positions but didn’t see too much of the ball until the 89th minute where he got on the end of Jack Payne’s free-kick to direct the ball into the back of the net with a controlled finish. Owen Goodman got a touch to it but couldn’t prevent it from going in. Substitutes are there to make an impact and that’s exactly what Harrison did.

TEAM PERFORMANCE – 7: The individual ratings for the attacking players will no doubts look quite high to a lot of people reading this. I can certainly agree that it’s a little controversial as attacking players are there to score goals or get assists and the majority of them failed to do that in this game. However, when looking at the performance as a whole, it was actually a solid performance. Some of the passing passages were lovely and there was a lot of evidence that this philosophy has been worked on and tweaked over recent weeks. There were patterns of play that Colchester had no answer for and if it wasn’t for the lack of quality with the finishing, it would’ve been a complete performance. If the game had finished 3-0 for example, the majority of players would’ve been looking at 7.5’s and 8’s at a minimum but it was just lacking that one crucial element going forwards.

Defensively, Dons looked strong again. Colchester did have some attacking quality but they were restricted to very little and the majority of their chances came at times where Dons had committed eight or nine men to the attack, leaving a single centre-back in a defensive position. This is of course a risk but Dons were playing with some much control that they were able to do this with limited risk. Equally, whenever a counter-attack was on, players would be sprinting back to stop the chance before it got too dangerous. There were times where Max Dean and Jonathan Leko virtually became defenders from how quickly they got back to stop Colchester from doing any damage. It’s that kind of commitment and selflessness that will carry the team through games and Mike Williamson is ingraining this attitude into every player in the squad.

In summary it was certainly frustrating to watch and Dons did end up doing it the hard way but the process and the identity within the team was clear. This is by no means the finished product but there have been some major improvements in the fundamentals of this set-up that will help the long-term form of the team, even if they weren’t as effective as they could’ve been in this particular match.

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!

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