Tomlinson and Lofthouse Integral to Success

By Callum Burgess

Milton Keynes Dons survived an early scare to beat Karl Robinson’s Salford City 3-1 to leapfrog Crewe Alexandra and move into fourth place in League Two.

Matt Smith scored to give the Ammies a surprise lead after he pounced on a loose ball to score past Michael Kelly.
It took MK Dons going behind for them to get going, and the space that Joe Tomlinson and Kyran Lofthouse found in high progressive situations allowed the side to progress forward with pace and cause some issues to their opponent’s backline.

Lofthouse and Tomlinson both completed three successful dribbles today, foraying toward their opposition’s 18-yard box and creating chances for their fellow attackers.

Even before Salford City took the lead, Tomlinson fired a cross towards Matthew Dennis, who could only direct the ball wide of Alex Cairn’s left post.

After the goal, it took a while for MK Dons to create a chance of their own when Lofthouse crossed the ball towards Dennis in the 24th minute, who forced Cairns to push it out for a corner.

MK Dons equalised three minutes later from a quick counter-attack when Tomlinson regained the ball deep in his half, where the Dons pushed forward with Alex Gilbey,
who found Kyran Lofthouse for his first MK Dons goal.

The brilliance of Kyran Lofthouse’s first goal comes from his brilliant work rate, offering support to Alex Gilbey on the wing before eventually cutting inside and firing a hard, low, fizzing shot into the bottom right corner.

The wing-backs offering this attacking support have become second nature in Mike Williamson’s side, who show their eagerness to cross the ball to their teammates or score a goal themselves.

Joe Tomlinson is a testament to this claim, who has scored six goals since
Williamson took over from Graham Alexander in October. The former Peterborough United defender scored a brace in the reverse fixture against Salford City in a 4-2 win at the Peninsula Stadium, who found acres of space on his wing inside the opponent’s box before firing two powerful strikes past Alex

The way MK Dons pass and move the ball quickly allows the wing-backs space to create opportunities for their teammates and propel their team forward with mazy dribbles and long pin-point passes.

Kyran Lofthouse completed 20 passes out of 25 attempted passes today, giving him an 80% successful pass rate, with Joe Tomlinson completing 27 passes out of 32, which gave him an 84.3% success rate.

Working alongside a midfield three of Jack Payne, Alex Gilbey, and Lewis Bate has improved their passing skill drastically, as they pick out their wingbacks and move into space to receive the ball back instantly. This overload can create overloads on the other side of the pitch for the opposing fullback, which could be observed late in the game when Wearne picked out Lofthouse, who eventually had his shot blocked.

Alongside the threat they offer in an attacking sense, this doesn’t stop them from excelling in their defensive duties when the opposition starts pushing for a goal. Lofthouse won the ball back once with his tackle, clearing the ball from danger three times, whereas Tomlinson completed five tackles and five clearances to keep MK Dons’ 3-1 first-half lead intact.

Tomlinson was the busier of the two wingbacks today, but that comes down to Salford City’s playstyle, who forced the ball to their creative winger, Junior Luamba, who couldn’t get the better of Tomlinson and Daniel Harvie.

It seemed like Mike Williamson told his team to sit back and hold onto their 3-1 lead in the second half, with their only chances coming from quick breaks, but they dealt with Salford’s attacking pressure very well.

Kyran Lofthouse brought the ball forward perfectly today, with the Salford players having to foul the Barnsley loanee to stop him from creating on his side, drawing four
fouls from the opposition.

Both players managed to last 95 minutes despite playing the whole game on Tuesday in the 2-1 win over Mansfield, which is a testament to their fitness and desire to play for the club. The way they play in this system has made them almost undroppable as they use their pace and power to create chances for their teammates alongside being resolute in defence.

Milton Keynes Dons travel to Grimsby Town on Tuesday, knowing a win could put them into the automatic promotion places if results go their way, and having Joe Tomlinson and Kyran Lofthouse at full strength could prove pivotal in their push to bring all three points back to StadiumMK.

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