Paynes Player Ratings Walsall

Following a dismal defeat on TV last time out, The Dons returned to Stadium MK to face play-off chasing Walsall. It was an edgy affair to begin with but Mike Williamson’s men led 1-0 going into half-time. However, one substitution changed the game in the second half and The Dons ran riot, finishing the game 5-0 up. Here’s how I rated the players after the statement victory at home to Walsall:

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

GK – Michael Kelly – 8: Started the game slowly and nearly ended up in big trouble when mis-controlling a back pass but he soon recovered. His standout moment came when denying Mo Faal in a one-on-one scenario, getting a strong hand to the striker’s effort and sending it out for a corner. Kelly made a couple of other important saves, though these were a little more routine. The keeper’s distribution was wayward to begin with but he eventually found his range and even helped create the move that led to the penalty, playing a long ball forward for Max Dean to challenge for. A win and a clean sheet is exactly the result Kelly needed to get his confidence back.

RWB – Kyran Lofthouse – 7: Looked lively throughout but did sometimes struggle to beat his man. The first ball Lofthouse played into the box was wildly inaccurate and this may have been in the back of his mind each time he came forward with the wingback holding onto the ball too long at times and giving it away cheaply. With this being said, he did manage to win the corner that led to The Dons’ fifth goal of the game. Defensively Lofthouse was solid enough, albeit a little slow getting back at times.

RCB – Cameron Norman – 8: A resolute defender’s performance. Norman was organised at the back and showed the right level of urgency to prevent balls coming into the box. It wasn’t always the prettiest but he ensured that he did enough to protect the goal at all times. His one mistake was losing his man for a cross coming into the box but fortunately the ball in was poor and Norman was able to head it behind for a corner. Aside from one or two dodgy passes he looked comfortable on the ball and enabled Lofthouse to play aggressively. Norman contributed with an assist for the fifth goal, winning the header from the corner and playing it back across goal for Max Dean who bundled the ball into the net from close range, making it 5-0 after 78 minutes.

CB – Warren O’Hora – 8: Consistent as usual in the centre of defence. O’Hora was calm under pressure and regularly had to play his way out of well-calculated Walsall pressing moves. He played a couple of long balls forward that put Walsall under pressure and gave Emre Tezgel something to work with. O’Hora also did well dealing with the physicality of Walsall’s attackers, particularly from set pieces. He even won a header that indirectly initiated the move for the third goal. The defender did nearly end up scoring an own goal with a cross deflecting off his body and just over the goal. However, he was pulled to the floor by Jamille Matt so it would be harsh to blame O’Hora for this.

LCB – Daniel Harvie – 6: Started the game very poorly with some basic errors including letting Mo Faal run straight through on goal following a ball over the top. Fortunately Kelly was there to spare Harvie’s blushes. As the game went on Harvie started to find his feet and he seemed to settle, especially after Faal went off. He carried on in a solid fashion until the 70th minute where Lewington came on to take Harvie’s place.

LWB – Joe Tomlinson – 8.5: Starting to find form again at a crucial time. The wingback was influential at both ends, getting stuck in at the back but charging forwards to join the attack, frequently rotating into an attacking midfield role. He worked well with the likes of Alex Gilbey, Emre Tezgel and Max Dean, creating plenty of chances and controlling play. Tomlinson played a big part in the opening goal, crossing the ball in with his right foot, allowing Gilbey to flick the ball on for Tezgel who supplied the finish. However, his standout moment came in the second half when he finally got on the scoresheet again, running onto Dean’s lay-off, taking a touch and shooting across goal with his left foot to make it 4-0 after 74 minutes.

CM – Jack Payne – 7: Took a while to get to grips with the physicality of the game but in the passages where Dons were playing the ball around in Walsall’s half, he looked comfortable. He was one of many to get a few touches in the build-up to the first goal and he worked well playing the ball about with Lewis Bate beside him. Payne did give the ball away cheaply on a few occasions but very rarely in dangerous positions. It was a solid yet unspectacular performance from the midfield man, who came off after 55 minutes for Ethan Robson.

CM – Lewis Bate – 7.5: A difficult player to give a rating to. He was heavily involved throughout but did give the ball away a few times in dangerous areas. With this being said he did offer a lot going forwards as well, contributing to the first goal by playing the ball about in the middle before finding Tomlinson on the wing. Bate also started the move for the fourth goal by winning a challenge in his own half, allowing Dan Kemp to pick up the loose ball and send Dons on their way. Surprisingly, he even had a couple of shots on goal! Worryingly Bate requested a sub and came off after 76 minutes with a knock. MJ Williams took his place in midfield.

RAM – Stephen Wearne – 7.5: He may not have been amongst the goals but he was often involved in the build-up play, particularly in the first half. Wearne did get a chance to score following a low ball in from Lofthouse but the midfield man hit his shot directly at Jackson Smith in the Walsall goal. He hit the shot with some venom and would’ve likely found the back of the net had he hit it either side of the Walsall keeper. Wearne was indirectly involved in the third goal, pressing and forcing the mistake out of the Walsall defender, allowing Max Dean to intercept a sloppy rushed header. He came off after 69 minutes for Dan Kemp.

LAM – Alex Gilbey (C) – 9: Another top showing of grit and determination, boosted by the return of Max Dean. Gilbey put in a real shift, contributing with a goal and an assist. He set up the opening goal by flicking on a Tomlinson cross into the path of Emre Tezgel. The captain would then grab a goal of his own in the second half, receiving Max Dean’s through ball before taking a couple of touches and rolling the ball into the far corner with his left foot, making it 3-0 after 62 minutes. Gilbey did actually have a similar chance shortly prior to his goal but he failed to hit the target. He was also pivotal in creating the fourth goal, playing a beautifully weighted first time through ball for Dean who would go on to set up Tomlinson. Off the ball Gilbey was relentless with his pressing, the best example being when he pushed forward with Dean and caught Walsall captain Donervon Daniels playing a dodgy pass which resulted in the penalty being won.

ST – Emre Tezgel – 8.5: This game will likely be remembered for the masterclass put on by Max Dean in the second half but Tezgel deserves a huge amount of credit for the way he played in the first half to give Dons the advantage in the first place. The loanee was everywhere, holding up play, running the channels, chasing loose ends and most importantly, scoring the opener. Tezgel ran onto Gilbey’s flicked-on header to shoot first time into the bottom corner from relatively close range, beating his marker to the ball and giving The Dons a 1-0 lead after 28 minutes. Aside from this, Tezgel was heavily involved in the build-up play and was clearly starting to understand his role more, playing some fantastic flick-ons for his teammates to run onto. He also held up the ball in advanced areas numerous times to allow his teammates to get into better positions. Every pass he played seemed to be the right one and he was unlucky to come off as soon as he did, making way for Max Dean after 55 minutes. Tezgel was nailed on for Top Don until the man who replaced his showed up…

SUB (ST) – Max Dean – 10 (TOP DON): In 35 minutes of football, Dean has played the very definition of a perfect 10 for the ratings. The young striker contributed with two goals and two assists, with the very first contribution coming almost instantly after he came on. Dean flicked the ball on from Kelly’s long ball forward. From there the striker started to press with Gilbey in support which soon forced Donervon Daniels to pass the ball back to his keeper only to find Dean running to intercept. The keeper had no choice but to take down Dean in the box, giving The Dons their first league penalty of the season. Having won the penalty, Dean stepped up to take it and rifled his effort into the bottom corner with Jackson Smith unable to save it despite diving the right way. This made it 2-0 after 59 minutes. He wasn’t finished there though, setting up chances for Gilbey and Tomlinson to expand the score-line further. Eventually Dean got his second goal, reacting quickly to Norman’s header across goal, knocking the ball past the opposing Walsall players before finding the net with his next touch from close range. Dean’s energy was infectious and sparked new life into his teammates. His high energy pressing made him a nightmare for Walsall’s defence to deal with. He was winning header’s he had no right to win and challenging them in areas they would never have expected. Flawless!

SUB (CM) – Ethan Robson – 7.5: His performance would’ve gone under the radar given the masterclass going on in the final third but Robson brought a welcome combative nature to the midfield that gave Dons that extra bit of bite just to ensure that Walsall were never getting back into the game. He looked comfortable on the ball and was involved in some good link-up play, getting the likes of Lofthouse, Norman and Dan Kemp more involved in the game.

SUB (RAM) – Dan Kemp – 7: Really good but really frustrating at the same time. Kemp was lively on the ball and made a couple of notable contributions but at times was a victim of trying too hard in his quest to get a goal. He would take on four or five players before trying to get his shot away and just ran out of space a little too often. He did get a couple of shots away but he failed to find the target with any of them, his best effort going just over the bar. With this being said he did play the ball forward to Gilbey in the build-up to the fourth goal and he also took the corner that created the fifth goal.

SUB (LCB) – Dean Lewington – 7.5: May have looked a little exposed on one or two occasions but he let his experience do the talking, coming away with the ball when Walsall looked certain to have beaten him. Lewington was solid throughout and kept things ticking along nicely with his passing. He was a calming presence that helped Dons see out the game.

SUB (CM) – MJ Williams – 6.5: Still very clumsy and did give the ball away awkwardly on the halfway line leading to a Walsall counter-attack but this was his only major error. Williams did look a bit uncomfortable on the ball at times but he did contribute to some good build-up play and drove forward into Walsall’s half when he could.

TEAM PERFORMANCE – 9: The first half was an edgy affair and Dons did get caught up trying to react to Walsall’s physicality to begin with. However, Dons did just about enough to prevent Walsall from taking their chances and went into the break a goal up, having scored a wonderful team goal. It felt like it was going to be a close second half but Max Dean’s introduction changed that very quickly. His individual performance can only be described as a masterclass in playing as the leading man. He inspired others and brought a ridiculous amount of energy onto the pitch. The only reason the team performance isn’t a 10 is because the team was effectively carried by the young striker. Without him there, it could’ve been a much closer game.

The defence had a nervy start but did eventually settle and hopefully a clean sheet will be a confidence booster, something that will only be helped further by Jack Tucker’s eventual return to the squad. It does show that Dons have quality players throughout the squad, with the likes of Dean Lewington and Ethan Robson chipping in with some solid performances. Cameron Norman’s performance is also noteworthy as he put in a real shift yet it’s his spot in the team that would likely be under threat once Tucker’s fit enough. At the other end of the pitch, Emre Tezgel has proven that he’s capable of leading the line at this level and he may still have a part to play even with Dean being so dominant in this fixture. The good thing is that Mike Williamson has plenty of options going into the final five games.

Finally, it’s fantastic to see the team reacting to losing 5-0 the previous week by winning 5-0 the next week, not just because it’s another three points, but because it’s a statement win where The Dons have taken the sword to another team in the top half. For weeks, I’ve criticised Dons for not going that step further and running away with games the same way that Mansfield have done with some of their crazy score-lines. This is what I was looking for! A win like this should hopefully swing momentum back in The Dons’ favour going into an intriguing away game at Notts County on Monday. Two possession-based sides go head to head. Both are good at attacking and neither are particularly good at defending. It was a top quality game in the reverse fixture so it will be interesting to see how things have changed this time around.

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!

Previous Story

Travel for Notts County has SOLD OUT

Next Story

MKDSA Live 7pm Tonight