Paynes Player Ratings

After a disappointing away defeat last week to Barrow, Mike Williamson’s men made a return to Stadium MK to play Accrington Stanley. They’re a plucky young side with play-off aspirations managed by John Coleman. Naturally this led to an edgy affair with Dons chasing the game for most of the way after Jack Nolan opened the scoring early doors. In the end it was the home side that prevailed, equalising through a Jack Payne free-kick before Joe Tomlinson secured the three points with a strike from outside the box in stoppage time. Here’s how I rated the players after the victory over Accrington:

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

GK – Filip Marschall – 6.5: Didn’t have much to do in the way of shot-stopping though he was beaten once. The goal came at his near post but it did take an awkward deflection off MJ Williams that put the ball out of reach so perhaps a little harsh to solely blame the keeper. The fans got on his back a lot for his distribution and he did have a few shaky moments but equally three of The Dons’ best chances started with the ball being played out by Marschall, including one from a throw that led to Dons having a shot on goal just one pass later. He also started the counter-attacking move that led to a corner being won at the other end of the pitch with a long ball he played for Emre Tezgel. Joe Tomlinson went on to score the winner following that corner routine.

I try to avoid being negative about the support from fans but the way Marschall was hounded by The Dons fans was very poor. It’s normal for people to criticise players and everyone has a right to an opinion, but when you’re jeering and sarcastically cheering whenever your own keeper catches the ball, it’s having a notable negative impact on his confidence. It was so bad that after quickly applauding the fans at full-time, Marschall was straight down the tunnel, whilst the rest of the team were still applauding the cowshed and celebrating. At the end of the day, this is the keeper Williamson wants to use and he’ll likely be in goal for the remaining 16 games so giving him abuse is only going to make the situation worse. The reality is he’s following instructions from the head coach and he’s not made anywhere near as many mistakes as the fans seem to think. People were saying the same about Craig MacGillivray before he left on loan but he wasn’t subjected to that sort of treatment. Of course it’s only my opinion and I’m sure some people will disagree but when the whistle blows for kick-off, we’ve got to back our man for the full 90 minutes.

RWB – Kyran Lofthouse – 6.5: Was one of the brighter sparks in a very dull first half and had a great battle with his marker throughout. Lofthouse looked confident on the ball and regularly looked to carry it forwards and he played his part in some of Dons’ best attacks. He had one shot on goal after playing a one-two with Jack Payne on the edge of the box but he skewed his effort wide with his weaker left foot. In addition to this he played the cross for Ellis Harrison’s first chance of the game but the ball was slightly behind Harrison which made it hard for him to get enough on his shot to beat the keeper. Lofthouse worked particularly well with Payne and Stephen Wearne with the trio finding plenty of cracks in Accrington’s defence after the substitutions were made. The wingback came off after 88 minutes for Emre Tezgel, with Wearne dropping into the wingback role.

RCB – Dean Lewington (C) – 5: Hard to be too critical when he’s playing a position that clearly doesn’t suit him very well but he did look quite suspect playing on the right of defence. He was the initial man to allow Jack Nolan past for Accrington’s goal but he certainly wasn’t the only one. He won some of his aerial battles though sometimes good positioning was all he needed to put off the Accrington attackers. He did try to play higher up the pitch a couple of times when Dons sustained attacks but he looked a little uncomfortable up there. Eventually Lewington came off for Cameron Norman after 88 minutes as Dons searched for a winner.

CB – MJ Williams – 5: Still not a centre-back and certainly not a ball-playing centre-back either. Williams’ played a couple of passes that only he could see in the opening quarter, gifting Accrington possession in the form of throw-ins. He also nearly made the same mistake that he made for Barrow’s goal in the last game, letting the ball bounce before dealing with the danger. Fortunately he had a lot more cover from his teammates this time. Williams did have a part to play in Accrington’s goal with the shot deflecting off him and into the bottom corner, though there’s little he could’ve really done about it. With all this being said, he did still win some important headers and did enough to limit Accrington to very little.

LCB – Daniel Harvie – 8 (TOP DON): By far the standout defensive player, showing exactly how a centre-back should operate in this system. He was strong with his challenges and physical when he needed to be but he also played with a lot of intelligence. Harvie knew when to put a foot in or clear it but there were also times when he simply let the ball run past him to roll out of play or to another Dons player behind him. In addition to this, he was good on the ball and helped Dons to play out from the back nicely once the team got their foothold in the game. His only big mistake was leaving his shooting boots at home, with his only shot flying well wide of the mark from outside the box.

LWB – Joe Tomlinson – 7: It felt like he had a quiet game by his standards but then for a good 60 minutes it was a very slow-paced game. He played a lovely ball for Dan Kemp to put in the back of the net in the first half but the goal was disallowed due to Tomlinson’s heavy touch taking the ball slightly off the pitch before he could get the cross in. He started to come alive after Jack Payne’s equaliser and suddenly started finding more space to work with down the left. This led to him contributing a lot more in the final third, including forcing a save from Radek Vitek after Stephen Wearne found the wingback in space during a break. The resulting corner was cleared and then recycled via Wearne and Tomlinson found himself with a chance to shoot once again. From outside the box, he fired the ball hard and low, finding the bottom corner with a little help from a deflection. This made it 2-1 to The Dons after 93 minutes.

CM – Lewis Bate – 6.5: Found it difficult to dictate play in the first half due to Accrington’s effective man-marking tactics. However, with Jack Payne playing further up either Bate or Ethan Robson should’ve made themselves busy by moving a lot more to create space elsewhere, or dropping into the hole between defence and midfield to collect the ball. Neither holding midfielder did this particularly well which made it difficult for Dons to play out from the back. Bate did still play a few nice balls but he didn’t really find his footing until Williamson made some changes, bringing Payne back into the holding midfield role. From that point onwards, Bate was much more involved and started to create a lot more going forwards. Defensively he had a good game, covering the wingbacks whenever he needed to.

CM – Ethan Robson – 5.5: Similarly to Bate, he didn’t do enough to get control of the game in the first half. It wasn’t helped by the rest of his teammates being largely static as well but he was best-placed to fix that problem. He broke up play fairly well but was one of the main culprit’s for Accrington’s goal, getting caught totally wrong-footed by Jack Nolan, which allowed the attacker to skip past Robson and eventually open the scoring, making it 0-1 after 11 minutes. Robson made way for Stephen Wearne after 63 minutes, with Jack Payne dropping into the holding midfield role to accommodate the change in personnel.

RAM – Jack Payne – 7.5: He was the third man that Jack Nolan skipped past for Accrington’s goal so he has to share a portion of the blame for going behind early on. Defensive work aside, he had a frustrating first half further up the pitch and he struggled to get involved with play. With Accrington man-marking so effectively, Bate and Robson struggled as playmakers but when Payne dropped into that role to allow for Stephen Wearne coming onto the pitch, Dons started to come alive. This was of course helped by Payne scoring an inch perfect free-kick to level the scoring after 71 minutes, finding the top corner with his effort. He was the supplier for a lot of chances and was heavily involved whenever Dons tried to break or play the ball around on the edge of the box. His position change was almost like making an extra substitution with the way it changed the game though he was certainly helped by the introductions of Wearne and Ellis Harrison.

LAM – Alex Gilbey – 6.5: Another player that struggled to get involved in the first half but his hard-working mentality came in handy later in the game when Dons were pushing to get back in the game. Gilbey won the free-kick that Payne would go on to score and was also involved in the creation of a lot of chances towards the end. He probably should’ve scored near the end when the ball was played into him by Emre Tezgel but Gilbey’s effort was saved by Radek Vitek and the midfielder struggled to control the rebound and swiftly lost possession. Gilbey then set up the final chance of the game after receiving a throw-in right in the corner of the pitch before working his way along the line and into the box. From there he cut it back to Tezgel who’s resulting shot was blocked.

ST – Dan Kemp – 6.5: Had the difficult job of leading the line despite not being a natural striker. He got shoved about by Accrington’s centre-backs but he used his body well and his hold-up play was surprisingly good considering his size. As long as the ball was played to his feet, Kemp was able to hold off his man and play the ball on to his teammates. His energy levels were good throughout as was shown when he sprinted to the corner flag to chase Bate’s ball forward before doubling back and retaining possession whilst under pressure from multiple Accrington defenders. He put a good shift in but wasn’t the type of player needed in the striker position to get a foothold in the game which led to Ellis Harrison coming on in his place after 63 minutes.

SUB (RAM/RWB) – Stephen Wearne – 8: Turned out to be a real game-changer with his attacking intent and impressive vision giving Dons a lot more purpose going forward. His first big moment came when Marschall threw the ball out to him just inside The Dons’ half. From there Wearne drove forwards with Ellis Harrison making a run to his right. Once he reached the edge of the box he played Harrison in but the resulting effort was saved by Radek Vitek. Perhaps could’ve shot on that occasion since he was in a more central position. However, Wearne would go on to set up his teammates plenty more times including for Tomlinson’s shot for the corner, and then again when Tomlinson scored from said corner. He also flicked the ball through for Emre Tezgel in the build-up to Gilbey’s major chance. Wearne played the last few minutes at wingback but he didn’t need to do much defending.

SUB (ST) – Ellis Harrison – 7.5: Harrison’s introduction was also significant as he gave Dons a focal point to play from. His hold-up play was fantastic, holding his marker off easily whilst playing the ball on to his teammates. This took a centre-back out of play plenty of times and allowed Dons to find gaps in Accrington’s defence. He also won a few headers including one that initiated the move for Gilbey’s big chance at the end. Harrison had a couple of shots on goal but he didn’t connect properly with any of them and the Accrington keeper was able to stop the efforts comfortably. The first shot was hit first time with the ball slightly behind him so it was a difficult one to take but he should’ve done better when Wearne played him in on goal.

SUB (RCB) – Cameron Norman – 6.5: Didn’t have too much to do but he added an extra body to the attack down the right with Dons pushing for a winner. Chipped in with a couple of defensive contributions as well.

SUB (RAM) – Emre Tezgel – 7: An unsung hero in his cameo appearance. He made two crucial plays that led to major chances in the closing stages. Firstly, he flicked on Marschall’s long ball into the path of Wearne who would swiftly play in Tomlinson which in turn led to that match-winning corner routine. He also played a beautiful ball across goal for Gilbey that he unfortunately couldn’t capitalise on, the Accrington keeper making the save at his near post. Tezgel did get one shot on goal towards the end but it was blocked by an Accrington defender.

TEAM PERFORMANCE – 6: From a supporter’s point of view this was a bad game. For a good 60 minutes it was two teams that cancelled each other out perfectly with the exception of Jack Nolan’s goal. There were very few chances for either side until Mike Williamson made some changes, bringing on Stephen Wearne and Ellis Harrison and dropping Jack Payne back into his usual role. This changed the dynamic of the game and gave Dons some momentum, which was only fuelled further by Payne’s magical free-kick equaliser. From there Dons piled on the pressure and were eventually rewarded with a late winner. It was a bit of a smash and grab win but equally, the correct tactical adjustments were made for this to happen.

The main concern was how slow the tempo was in the first half. MJ Williams simply did not work as the ball-playing sweeper though admittedly he wasn’t helped by the whole team being static far too often. Having Dean Lewington playing on the right certainly didn’t help matters and it felt like a very awkward defensive line-up, at least when it came to playing out from the back. Perhaps a better side would’ve exposed the defence a bit more but in this game they did enough to limit Accrington to very little.

The attack was certainly missing a focal point and it may have been a mistake to not start with a striker. However, of the three strikers available two were recovering from injury and the third is still learning the system so it’s understandable as to why Williamson opted to use Dan Kemp instead. The line-up for the next game against Bradford could look quite different. It would be reasonable to assume that Ellis Harrison will return to the starting XI, Cameron Norman could take a spot in defence and there’s always the possibility that Warren O’Hora could return as well after missing this fixture due to personal reasons.

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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