Paynes Player Ratings Crawley Play-Off

By Luke Payne, Fan of The Year

Payne’s Player Ratings vs Crawley (Away) – Play-off’s Edition:

Play-offs… familiar territory for Dons fans for all the wrong reasons. Mike Williamson’s men have battled hard to rise up the league table as far as they have, but it all comes down to two games against Scott Lindsey’s Crawley Town. The first leg took place at the Broadfield Stadium a day later than scheduled due to a waterlogged pitch, but when the game did eventually get played, it was The Dons’ defence that was flooded. Crawley dominated the game and secured a 3-0 victory. Here’s how I rated the players after the horrific defeat away at Crawley:

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

GK – Michael Kelly – 6: Kelly nearly helped Dons to an early lead by playing a brilliant ball over the top for Max Dean to chase just a couple of minutes into the game. However, he would be picking the ball out of his own net a few minutes later after a deflected shot found the bottom corner. Kelly was blameless for the first goal, and it was a similar case for the third goal. The ball deflected directly over the keeper, so there wasn’t much he could do about it. The second goal, however, is a bit more debatable. A free-kick was whipped in at the front post, and Kelly opted to stay on his line where he could’ve potentially come out to claim it. He got a touch to the resulting shot but couldn’t prevent it from going in. Kelly’s saves kept the score down but his defence did him no favours. His distribution was a bit hit and miss, sometimes finding his man but other times finding a Crawley defender with no Dons player nearby.

RWB – Cameron Norman – 5: One of two outfield players to put in a respectable showing in the first half, alongside Daniel Harvie. Norman won a lot of his physical battles and protected the right side gallantly. Crawley’s first goal did come down the right but this was due to poor positioning from the midfield players rather than Norman’s defensive work. The wingback was at fault for one of Crawley’s major chances from a corner, totally losing track of Laurence Maguire, giving the opposition defender a free header at the near post that was fortunately directed straight at Kelly before Harvie cleared the second ball. Norman then lost track of his man again for Crawley’s second goal but this was through no fault of his own. Danilo Orsi stood in an offside position for the free-kick and blocked Norman from dropping back when the cross came in, allowing Jay Williams to direct the ball towards goal unchallenged, making it 2-0 after 45+1 minutes. Norman looked comfortable on the ball though he was a bit reluctant to play the ball forwards at times. With this being said, he did set up one of Max Dean’s first half chances when he played a diagonal ball forward for the young striker. Norman came off after 61 minutes for Kyran Lofthouse.

RCB – Jack Tucker – 3.5: Tucker struggled to keep up with the pace and sharpness of the Crawley attackers and spent a lot of the time trying to recover from mistakes. He did win some of his duels, including a big headed clearance in the build-up to one of Max Dean’s chances but Tucker still looked vulnerable at the back. Tucker was the second man marking Jay Williams for Crawley’s second goal but he failed to track his run and Williams easily beat Tucker to the ball. When Dons did finally start to play the ball about properly later in the second half, Tucker looked a lot better and picked out a couple of wonderful passes, though he did slow down the tempo unnecessarily at times. He also had a shot at goal following a set piece but his effort was tame and caught easily by Corey Addai. It’s worth noting that this improvement came with the absence of pressure, since Crawley seemed happy to settle for a 3-0 victory. Perhaps fortunate that Norman was the one substituted instead of him.

CB – Warren O’Hora – 4.5: Not directly at fault for any of the three goals but he lost his individual battle against Danilo Orsi far too many times. It was far too easy for the opposition striker to bring the ball down under little pressure from O’Hora who always seemed to be a step or two behind the Crawley man. The best example of this was when Crawley played a ball straight through the middle of The Dons’ midfield and Orsi was able to control the ball, get it out from under his feet and shoot from the edge of the box before O’Hora even got close to him. Luckily Kelly was on hand to tip it over the bar but the resulting corner turned out to be another major chance for Crawley. O’Hora was comfortable enough on the ball but due to Dons’ tactics, his ball-playing capabilities weren’t put to much use until the second half when it was too late.

LCB – Daniel Harvie – 6 (TOP DON): Harvie seems to be picking up a lot of the criticism for this performance, likely because two of the goals were deflections that came off him. However, there were far bigger problems with those two goals caused by the chaotic positioning and lack of awareness from The Dons midfield. Harvie was one of the few positives in this game. He got stuck in and reacted quickly to second balls, something his teammates failed to do on a regular basis. His tackles and clearances massively reduced the amount of chances Crawley were getting. Harvie was good on the ball as well, carrying the ball into the opposition half a number of times. He even set up Max Dean for a chance with a brilliant cutback across goal in the second half. Harvie’s often picked out as someone who passes backwards too much but he was one of the more forward-thinking players in this game, contributing to a lot of Dons’ build-up play down the left as well as initiating the move for Ellis Harrison’s major chance with his ball forward.

LWB – Joe Tomlinson – 4.5: Tomlinson struggled to get into the game and saw very little of the ball in the first half. He was inconsistent defensively, usually occupying a decent position but not always doing enough to put Crawley under pressure. When Crawley started to back off in the second half, Tomlinson started finding more space to operate in and he played a number of balls into the box. The wingback also set up Ellis Harrison’s best chance of the game, picking up the second ball from Harvie’s pass forward before sliding the ball in to Harrison, sending the striker through on goal.

CM – Jack Payne – 3: Unfortunately this was probably Payne’s worst game in a Dons shirt. He was bullied out of the game by Crawley’s midfield and his defensive positioning left a lot to be desired. The best example of this was Crawley’s third goal where Payne gave Liam Kelly far too much space to receive a pass in an advanced position. From there Kelly was able to evade Payne and play the ball in to Ronan Darcy who tried to play a cross only for it to immediately deflect off Harvie and into the goal, making it 3-0 after 65 minutes. Payne had very limited impact going forward and he struggled to pick his passes a lot of the time. He came off after 79 minutes for MJ Williams.

CM – Lewis Bate – 4.5: Similarly to Payne, Bate got pushed aside by Crawley’s midfield and the pair were played off the park by opposition that were much sharper on the ball, and much quicker to second balls. Bate nearly managed to get a foot in at the last minute in the build-up to Crawley’s first goal but the shot was taken just before he got there. He then gave away a free-kick with a reckless challenge for Crawley’s second goal, picking up a yellow card in the process. The loanee did grow into the game somewhat and did show good energy levels at times, sometimes taking Max Dean’s place as the pressing man up front. However, it was too little too late and his quality only started showing once Dons were 3-0 down.

RAM – Stephen Wearne – 3: Wearne was all over the place in the first half and his positioning let him down massively. Crawley’s first goal was largely Wearne’s mistake, getting caught totally out of possession allowing Crawley to break down the right wing through Liam Kelly. Wearne chased him from the halfway line all the way back to the edge of The Dons’ box but crucially he slowed down when Kelly played the ball to Adam Campbell who swiftly played it back to Kelly who then scored with his first time shot. This made it 1-0 after 5 minutes. Had Wearne kept tracking his man, he may have been able to prevent the shot, or at least put Kelly under a bit of pressure. Wearne was involved in the build-up to one of Max Dean’s chances but he saw precious little of the ball otherwise. A few poor touches in the second half reduced his chances of making an impact and he was swiftly withdrawn after 61 minutes with Ellis Harrison coming on in his place. Dean moved to right attacking midfield to accommodate this change.

LAM – Alex Gilbey (C) – 4: This game passed Gilbey by. With Crawley keeper Corey Addai near enough operating as a right-back due to the lack of pressing from Dons, Gilbey was easily bypassed either through a flurry of quick passes, or a long ball forward. He spent a lot of time chasing and not that much time on the ball. When he did get the ball, he often gave it away too cheaply, including in the build-up for Danilo Orsi’s chance. Like Payne, Gilbey’s positioning for the third goal was awful. As Crawley exchanged passes down the left, Gilbey gave Will Wright far too much space allowing Crawley to start their attacking move again by passing back to Wright. From there, they played a few more passes and Gilbey was left to mark Ronan Darcy. However, Gilbey didn’t bother tracking Darcy’s run which enabled Liam Kelly to play the ball in to Darcy who would go on to score shortly afterwards. Gilbey was taken off after 79 minutes in favour of Emre Tezgel.

ST – Max Dean – 3: This could be seen as harsh given that he was involved in the creation of a lot of chances, but Dean’s shooting was abysmal. His best chance of the game came just two minutes in when he ran onto Kelly’s ball over the top. Dean rounded the keeper but his touch took him wide and despite finding the target with his shot, Will Wright was able to slide in and clear it off the line. The young striker was able to get to the second ball first but he fired another shot directly at the Crawley keeper when Gilbey was in a better shooting position. Dean then had another chance following a ball forward from Norman. He managed to turn his man and create space on the edge of the box but skewed a weak effort wide of the goal. Then in the second half, Dean had another great opportunity to score from Harvie’s cutback. He took a touch with his left foot to set himself up for a right-footed shot, but his effort went flying out of the stadium from inside the box.

Out of possession Dean didn’t do much of his usual pressing. He seemed content to let Corey Addai bring the ball out from his box without challenging the Crawley keeper before he got close to the halfway line. This was no doubt an instruction from Williamson but it put Dons under so much more pressure and gave Dons a total lack of intensity off the ball. This was a poor approach to playing against another possession-based team, especially when Addai isn’t particularly competent with the ball at his feet. In terms of Dean’s performance, it felt like he was in his own head, getting increasingly wound up with every chance he missed.

SUB (RWB) – Kyran Lofthouse – 5: Lofthouse came on with energy and showed a lot more attacking intent than Norman, but he was wasteful in the final third. His crosses usually found Crawley players and his only shot went sailing over the bar. With this being said, he did contribute to a lot of the build-up play and he had Crawley’s defence scrambling a few times.

SUB (ST) – Ellis Harrison – 4.5: Offered a new dimension with his physicality. Harrison’s presence allowed Dons to use him as a focal point. Even if he didn’t win the first ball, it gave Crawley something to defend against and this forced them to drop back into their half a lot more than they had previously. Harrison had a golden opportunity to score after getting sent through on goal by Tomlinson. However, he waited far too long to get the shot away and missed the target when he finally did. He probably would’ve been better off carrying the ball forward and slotting it past Addai. Harrison was involved in a lot of build-up play and it was the energy he brought that gave Dons a bit of belief and desire to actually start attacking. He lacked quality in the final third but operated brilliantly as a link-up player.

SUB (CM) – MJ Williams – 5: A relatively late change and had limited impact but Williams offered a bit more physicality in midfield and offered more physical presence than Payne before him.

SUB (LAM) – Emre Tezgel – 4: Came on with energy but just couldn’t settle into the game in time. Tezgel had a few good touches and a few bad ones but he had minimal impact going forward with Crawley starting to sit back.

TEAM PERFORMANCE – 3: This was a tactical disaster class by Mike Williamson. The way Dons set up showed far too much respect to Crawley and allowed them to dictate proceedings. The lack of pressing from Dons gave Crawley a problem in terms of passing out from the back, but the opposition’s attacking players were so much stronger physically that they were able to win a lot of the long balls anyway so all this really did was put Dons under pressure, playing inside the defensive third far too much. It’s also worth noting that this lack of pressing hasn’t been trialled in any league game before this and was a gamble that failed miserably. It seems to be a common thing for Williamson to change the style of play more dramatically when playing in big games or against sides that also play possession football. Not once have these changes ever actually worked. Dons set up in a similarly defensive manner against Notts County away and only got away with it somewhat due to the lack of quality in the Notts County defence. Crawley are a much stronger side than that so they were never going to make the same mistakes.

The game plan clearly wasn’t working and it didn’t look like the players were buying into it much either. They were sluggish out of possession and lost the majority of second balls. The tactical changes in the second half worked to a degree, but they came far too late and were partially enabled by Crawley settling for a 3-0 score-line. The defence had no idea how to deal with Crawley’s fast passing or physicality and the midfield did a terrible job at supporting them. Add in the attackers being wasteful and you’re left with a shambolic team performance. Going into the play-offs I expressed concerns over Dons’ lack of bottle in important games and unfortunately I’ve been proven right. Crawley showed up with confidence and desire whilst Dons showed up with nerves and uncertainty.

The only positive I’ve been able to come up with is that there’s no longer any pressure on Dons in the second leg. At 3-0 down there is little to no chance of Dons coming back from this deficit to make it to Wembley. As such, The Dons should start playing with freedom as there’s nothing to lose anymore. Stop playing to ruin the other team’s game plan and start playing to our strengths. Force them to play our game. They cannot dictate play if they don’t have the ball. Other managers in this league have tipped Dons as the best ball-playing side in the league…so prove it.

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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