Payne’s Player Ratings

By Luke Payne, Feature Writer

Mike Williamson’s men ventured up north to Bradford for yet another Tuesday night game, looking to build on Saturday’s win at home to Accrington. Dons would face former manager Graham Alexander and quickly found out how an Alexander side is supposed to look having struggled to play that same style earlier in the season. A bad day at the office led to a 4-0 trouncing but here’s how I rated the players after the heavy defeat at Valley Parade:

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

GK – Nathan Harness – 4.5: With Filip Marschall and Michael Kelly unavailable for this game, it was extremely good timing for Nathan Harness to return from injury. He may have conceded four goals but there was nothing he could’ve done about the first or third goals. The second goal was disappointing because Harness got a hand to Clarke Oduor’s low shot at his front post but could only tip it onto the post and back across goal where Calum Kavanagh was running in and able to put it away, making it 2-0 after 36 minutes. Perhaps its harsh to blame Harness for the fourth goal as the entire defence was a mess by this point, but he saw Oduor looking like he might run through on goal and charged out to meet him, only to be blocked off by a recovering MJ Williams, leaving Oduor with an empty net to aim at. This made it 4-0 after 51 minutes. Harness’ distribution was mostly good, though he did still misplace a couple that should’ve been routine.

RWB – Kyran Lofthouse – 5: Pretty good going forward but brought very little to the defence. As a wingback your priority is defending. You may have licence to join the attack and play an advanced role but when the opposition are countering you have to sprint to get back into position. Lofthouse simply didn’t do this often enough and left Bradford with some easy overload’s down the right whilst the wingback was having a leisurely jog back to defence. With this being said, he was only out of position for the first goal and he had MJ Williams covering him so he got away with his positioning errors for the most part. His attacking work was respectable and he wasn’t afraid to take on his man, a trait that helped push Dons into some good attacking positions.

RCB – Cameron Norman – 5.5: Had a lot to do with Lofthouse regularly absent on his right and Warren O’Hora having a poor game to his left. Norman put in some important tackles and headers to keep Bradford out but would get outnumbered often through no fault of his own. His positioning for the fourth goal was questionable but that was the case for every defending player with O’Hora losing the ball in such a dangerous position in the first place. Norman played the ball about nicely and felt much more natural in that position than Dean Lewington did against Accrington.

CB – Warren O’Hora – 4: Perhaps this is harsh as he’s only just returned to the side a few days after skipping the Accrington game for personal reasons. However, O’Hora’s performance was poor at best. He started the game okay, playing the ball about well enough but as the game went on his level kept dropping to the point that he passed it directly to Andy Cook for Bradford’s fourth goal. This led to the entire defence scrambling to get back to no avail, with Clarke Oduor eventually finishing the move off. O’Hora was also partially at fault for the opening goal, giving Jonathan Tomkinson far too much space to receive the ball in the box. With this being said, O’Hora was trying to cover two men at once and he didn’t have enough support from his midfield.

LCB – Daniel Harvie – 5: Carried on where he left off against Accrington, putting in strong challenges and playing out from the back nicely. However, as his teammates started making mistakes he too then started slipping up and a few dodgy passes crept into his game. The same could be said for his defending. Harvie was wrong-footed for the second goal in a one-on-one scenario and Clarke Oduor was able to get his shot away for free. He was then far too static for the third goal, firstly letting the cross come in and then failing to put a challenge in or even track his man when the ball came back his way again. Harvie made a valiant attempt to prevent the fourth goal with a well-timed sliding tackle as the last man but none of his teammates could recover before Bradford could get the ball under control again.

LWB – Joe Tomlinson – 5.5: One of the more solid players from a defensive point of view, working well with Harvie to cut out a number of attacks. However, going forward he was lacking in quality and struggled to pick out the final ball. He tried a few crosses, the best of which was fired in far too quickly for Jack Payne to redirect towards goal. His final third play did improve after Stephen Wearne came on but by then the damage was already done.

CM – Jack Payne – 5.5: Played the ball about fairly well given the poor quality of the pitch but still struggled in the key moments. He had a free-kick saved in the bottom corner by Sam Walker but he failed to hit the target with any of his other attempts. Payne was mostly free from blame for the goals, though he was shrugged off far too easily by the Bradford attacker in the build-up to their third goal. Another one who improved with Stephen Wearne on the pitch but by then it was too little, too late. Payne moved into the attacking midfield role when Ethan Robson came on.

CM – MJ Williams – 3: Not the only one at fault for any of the goals but the only one who was partially at fault for all of them. As the holding midfielder it’s his job to step in and cover the defenders when they move out of position. For the first goal, Harvie is busy trying to tackle the man on the ball so Williams should slot into the back three. Instead he stays in line with Dan Kemp on the edge of the box. Inevitably the ball goes to the man that Williams should’ve been marking and with Bradford having more players in the box, they soon score courtesy of a Matty Platt effort that was rifled into the top corner. For the second goal Williams learns his lesson, covering the right side of defence in the absence of Lofthouse. However, when the shot comes in and rebounds off the post it’s Williams’ man that’s running in ready to tap the ball in whilst Williams had stopped in the middle of the box thinking his job was done.

It’s harsh to give him too much of the blame for the third goal as it was a goalmouth scramble. With this being said, he was the closest man to Andy Cook when the ball fell to him and he had a free shot on goal so Williams probably should’ve been marking him a bit tighter. This made it 3-0 after 49 minutes. Finally, he did well to recover and become the last man after Harvie tried to put a tackle in. Unfortunately when the ball then found its way to Clarke Oduor, Williams was easily wrong-footed giving the Bradford man an easy finish. He would be replaced just one minute later with Lewis Bate coming on in his place.

RAM – Dan Kemp – 3.5: Maybe a little harsh because Kemp was very active and was heavily involved whenever Dons got into Bradford’s half. However, he was usually the reason Dons lost possession and there were far too many times where he had teammates in great positions but he just didn’t play the pass. He typically took too many touches so by the time he made a decision, it was easy for Bradford to intercept or dispossess him. His reluctance to pass the ball contributed massively to isolating Emre Tezgel out of the game and he was sacrificed after just 53 minutes in favour of Stephen Wearne.

LAM – Alex Gilbey (C) – 4.5: Similarly to Kemp, Gilbey put the effort in but wasn’t sharp enough in the final third to pick the final ball. He did have a shot on goal from a tight angle in the first half but could only hit the side netting. He did play the ball about well with the likes of Payne and Emre Tezgel but the good passages were outnumbered massively by the bad. In a rare turn of events, he came off for Ethan Robson after 68 minutes. Payne moved up into the advanced midfield role to accommodate the change.

ST – Emre Tezgel – 5.5: He put himself in some great positions but wasn’t utilised anywhere near enough. There were countless times when he would’ve been through on goal had the ball been played to him but the pass just never came. When he did get on the ball he had some nice touches and contributed to the build-up well. Tezgel’s timing with his shooting needs to improve as all of his shots were easily blocked. He was also lacking in the pace department when in sprint races with the Bradford defenders. He had scraps to work with most of the time and would eventually make way for Matt Dennis after 69 minutes.

SUB (CM) – Lewis Bate – 6.5: Gave a lot more control to the midfield and helped to protect the defence from dealing with even more attacks. Bate played the ball about nicely and worked well with the likes of Payne and Stephen Wearne to advance the ball into Bradford’s half. With the opposition being 4-0 up by this point, they had eased off a little bit, but Bate still brought structure back to the side as Williamson’s men looked for some kind of consolation.

SUB (RAM) – Stephen Wearne – 7 (TOP DON): By far the standout man, showing the starting players how to approach playing a team that’s going to be physical and press aggressively. Wearne played some beautiful passes and won free-kicks in dangerous areas with his quick-thinking and vision, moving the ball on before he could be dispossessed. He helped play his teammates into some great positions but ultimately his good work led to nothing. More than worthy of a starting spot in the team if he’s fit enough.

SUB (CM) – Ethan Robson – 5.5: Brought in to give a bit more energy to the midfield but proved to be more of the same, playing a few loose passes and simply not incisive enough when it came to playing the ball forwards.

SUB (ST) – Matt Dennis – 5: Chased some loose ends but was isolated even more than Tezgel was. His positioning wasn’t great and he didn’t do enough to get involved in the play.

TEAM PERFORMANCE – 5: This looked extremely lenient for a 4-0 score-line but the general performance wasn’t all that bad. Bradford insisted on pressing aggressively which left gaps in behind that made them vulnerable. However, on the occasions Dons found those gaps there was no-one willing to pick the final ball. Instead the ball would be played backwards again allowing Bradford to recover and have another go at their press. Eventually their press would result in a turnover in possession whenever a Dons player made a wrong decision and Bradford would attack with speed and purpose. This attacking style combined with poor individual defending led to Dons gifting goals to the hosts and the game was well and truly over by the 51st minute.

Excuses can be made with certain players missing but it’s more concerning when players like Dan Kemp and Alex Gilbey are making the wrong decisions in the final third. They may not have had the familiar focal point of a Max Dean or an Ellis Harrison but they should’ve been more than capable of creating chances without them, especially when Emre Tezgel was there making the right runs constantly. Someone needed to consciously make the decision that they were going to play with intent to score and that didn’t happen until Stephen Wearne came on. Possession football has its pros and cons the same way any other style of football does, but regardless of how you play, sometimes you have to take risks and it was only Wearne that was prepared to do that.

Defensively Dons were very poor but this could be down to an ever-changing defensive line-up including Nathan Harness appearing in goal for the first time since August. They weren’t really defending as a unit, more as individuals panicking whenever Bradford ran at them. Despite conceding four, it does feel like the five defenders that started the game are the ones Dons should be using regularly until Jack Tucker returns. Warren O’Hora had an uncharacteristically poor performance and they had very little protection from the midfield. It’s also hard to see how MJ Williams, Dean Lewington or Anthony Stewart would’ve improved that defensive performance, especially when Williams started in midfield and was part of the problem. He will certainly have better games but it will be difficult for him to retain his spot with the likes of Lewis Bate and Ethan Robson available. This is all speculation though and we won’t find out until Saturday where Mike Williamson’s men will have a chance to bounce back away at Swindon.

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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