Paynes Player Ratings The 2023/24 Season Part Two

By Luke Payne, Feature Writer

In the second instalment we travel from 20th to 11th place in the season average ratings.

20 – Matt Dennis – 5.91: Matt Dennis has endured a peculiar season, not helped by the constant niggling injuries he keeps picking up. In Graham Alexander’s reign Dennis was seemingly frozen out of the squad but the introduction of Mike Williamson saw the young striker find a bit of form when he eventually had his chance in the first team. He only appeared 11 times but his ratings fluctuated less than most of those he outranks, ranging from a 4 at home to Brighton U21’s to an 8.5 at home to Crewe, where he scored a brace in a wonderful 3-1 victory. Dennis was never Top Don this season but under Williamson he was improving… there could still be a future for him at The Dons.

19 – MJ Williams – 5.98: The final player with an average rating below the team performance is MJ Williams. The utility man’s ratings have been heavily impacted by the positions he’s played, with a lot of his games at centre-back being his lowest ratings. Stockport away was the worst of these, with Williams scoring a 2.5 in the 5-0 defeat. By contrast his best performance was a midfield appearance off the bench in the 4-1 home victory over Bradford where Williams earned a score of 9. Other top performances included Wrexham away and Swindon at home. In both games Williams achieved ratings of 8.5 playing in midfield. He was never awarded Top Don but he proved to be a useful asset to have, appearing 33 times.

18 – Tommy Smith – 6.07: Tommy Smith is another player that only just qualifies for this list, appearing just 7 times before he moved to Australian team Macarthur FC in early February. A lot of Smith’s opportunities came whilst Graham Alexander was in charge and it was in one of these games that the New Zealand international was awarded Top Don. He stood out with a rating of 7 in a 2-1 away defeat at Crawley. Once Mike Williamson came in, it became clear that Smith would struggle for game time due to him being a no-nonsense defender in a possession-based team. The best example of this was in the 3-2 FA Cup defeat at Reading where Smith could only manage a rating of 4 against a team that knew how to press effectively. He struggled to play out from the back and that was the beginning of the end for him. Smith would’ve been a useful back-up to have but he left the club in search of more minutes elsewhere.

17 – Kyran Lofthouse – 6.10: When Kyran Lofthouse came in, he brought a fresh new look to the right side of defence. His attacking instincts gave Dons an extra attacking threat and this showed plenty of times, most notably in the 3-1 home win against Salford where Lofthouse was awarded Top Don for his 9 rated performance. He scored a great goal in this game but ran riot throughout, setting up chances for his teammates constantly. This was his only Top Don across his 20 games, though he did earn another 9 rating for the 3-0 win at home to Newport. His performances did tail off towards the end of the season in fixtures such as Mansfield at home, Notts County away and the second leg play-off game against Crawley. He finished all of these games with a 3.5 but despite this he averaged a respectable 6.10.

16 – Daniel Harvie – 6.16: Naturally the writer’s favourite player in the squad is the first one to have multiple Top Don’s to his name. Daniel Harvie achieved Top Don three times, most recently in the 3-0 first leg play-off defeat against Crawley with a rating of 6. This is the joint lowest rating for a Top Don this season. However, he also scored 8 and 7.5 in his other Top Don performances at home to Accrington and Harrogate respectively. Harvie has struggled for consistency this season it’s fair to say, with ratings as low as 2.5 away at Stockport to ratings as high as 8.5 in home games against Newport and Swindon. He’s played by far the most games out of anyone on this list so far, appearing 35 times in games I’ve covered this season. Having operated at wingback and on the left of the back three, Harvie remains a useful asset going into next season.

15 – Dan Kemp – 6.17: Swindon fans would be shocked to see Dan Kemp this low whereas some Dons fans might be wondering why Kemp is this high. He never found the same form he did out on loan though his energy and work-rate on the pitch earned him an extra 0.5 near enough every time he played. He was never awarded Top Don in his 17 games though he did earn a rating of 9 in the 3-0 win at home to Newport where he scored one and assisted another. Despite failing to live up to expectations he was only rated below a 6 six times, the lowest of which was a 3.5 in the 4-0 away defeat at Bradford. There’s a fantastic player in there somewhere, it’s just a shame that The Dons’ won’t ever get to see it.

14 – Michael Kelly – 6.20: “Based on this performance it seems unlikely that Kelly will be staying with the club once Nathan Harness returns from injury.” These were the exact words I wrote after Michael Kelly’s 1.5 rated performance in the 0-4 EFL Trophy defeat against Brighton U21’s. I’m happy to admit I got that one wrong! The goalkeeper conundrum proved to be a tough solve for Mike Williamson once he sent Craig MacGillivray on loan but it was Kelly who eventually claimed the No.1 spot. The keeper was never awarded Top Don but he provided a number of top performances, most notably four home games against Crewe (8.5), Newport (8), Walsall (8) and Wrexham (8). Kelly wasn’t always convincing but across 15 games he was able to prove he’s more than just an emergency keeper. Despite getting released by Dons at the end of the season, he’s done enough to earn a chance elsewhere.

13 – Ellis Harrison – 6.21: Ellis Harrison is the second player on this list to have been awarded multiple Top Dons. Interestingly, it’s been in games where Dons have underachieved where Harrison’s been the standout man: the 1-0 loss away at AFC Wimbledon (7), the 3-0 defeat away at Doncaster (6.5) and the 3-3 draw away at Notts County (8) where Harrison had his best game of the season. The striker’s brace off the bench very nearly secured The Dons a win at Meadow Lane and it’s been these performances off the bench that place Harrison so high on this list. He adds an extra dimension to the attack with a deadly combination of physicality, pace and power. Harrison was actually less effective when he started games, his lowest ratings being a 3.5 against Brighton U21’s and a 4 at home against Harrogate, both games he started. He also scored a 4 in the 5-0 away defeat at Stockport where he was a substitute, though this was an uncharacteristically poor performance from the entire squad. An average rating of 6.21 over 29 games with a lot of those coming from the bench is a solid return and Harrison should be a very handy squad player to have next season as well.

12 – Warren O’Hora – 6.23: Perhaps a slight shock to see O’Hora this low, though notably he achieved the best average rating of any centre-back on this list, 6.23 across 39 games. O’Hora was awarded Top Don twice this season though neither occasion was a win. He was the star man in the 1-2 home defeat against Morecambe (7.5) as well as the 1-1 home draw against Wrexham (8). However, his highest rated performances were 8.5’s in home wins against Forest Green and Swindon. By contrast, his worst performances were 3.5’s in a home game against Harrogate and the home leg of the play-offs against Crawley. In his 39 games, O’Hora was given a rating of 5.5 or below 15 times which means he was getting a below average rating 38.5% of the time. To still achieve an average of 6.23 is impressive given that O’Hora was playing in all of the games where The Dons’ defence capitulated. Sadly a player of his quality was never likely to stick around if the club wasn’t promoted at the first time of asking. It will take a top League Two defender to fill the hole left in the squad by O’Hora’s departure.

11 – Conor Grant – 6.36: The first major shock on this list is the surprisingly impressive rating of Conor Grant. The midfielder was no more than a rotation player in the first half of the season and he spent the second half of the season on loan at Barnsley. This means he only received a rating 11 times this season. However, only three of these were below 6, the home games against Grimsby (5.5) and Harrogate (4.5) and the 3-0 away defeat at Doncaster (5). Grant was never awarded Top Don but recorded his season high rating in the 3-2 home win over Swindon after contributing with an assist in addition to his involvement in the rest of Dons’ build-up play. Playing as a wide attacking midfielder may not be the most natural role for him but he has a lot of potential to improve if developed properly.

The final part is tomorrow, when Luke gives you his top ten Dons for the 2023/24 season.

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Paynes Player Ratings The 2023-24 Season Part One

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Paynes Player Ratings The 2023/24 Season Part Three