Paynes Player Ratings The 2023/24 Season Part Three

By Luke Payne, Feature Writer

Luke ends his season ratings review with the top ten Dons on display …

9 – Dawson Devoy – 6.50: The first shock is followed swiftly by the second. Dawson Devoy’s average of 6.5 earns him joint 10th on the player rankings list. I did initially put this down to cup game performances but even after removing his three cup appearances, his average still held at 6.50. Devoy’s season can be summarised by his two Top Don performances: the 1-2 home defeat against Stockport and the 0-4 home defeat against Brighton U21’s, a game where Devoy was sent off. He achieved a rating of 7 for both of these games. The young midfielder only featured nine times before getting sent on loan to Swindon in January so the smaller sample size for both Devoy and Grant could help explain their positions on this list. Devoy is a creative player and he’s performed better in games where he’s operated as a playmaker. Interestingly, Swindon used him as a central attacking midfielder and this could well be his best position. Unfortunately, no such position exists in The Dons’ system.

9 – Emre Tezgel – 6.50: With 15 ratings to his name, all of which came in the league aside from the play-off fixtures, Emre Tezgel’s average of 6.50 feels a little more justified than Devoy’s. Tezgel had to learn his role very quickly with Dons mounting a promotion charge and he took a little time to settle in, though he improved with almost every game he played. This is signalled nicely by the contrast between his first and last league games for Dons. His first appearance was the 1-0 away defeat at Barrow where he scored a 4.5 appearing off the bench. By the final league game of the season Tezgel was awarded his only Top Don performance in the 4-4 draw with Sutton. Tezgel scored one and assisted another, earning a rating of 8 for his efforts.

8 – Cameron Norman – 6.53: We’re now approaching the top performing players in the squad and Cameron Norman certainly fits into this category. An average of 6.53 over 32 games is an impressive return for a defender given how many times The Dons’ defence crumbled under adversity. Despite appearing regularly, Norman had to wait until the last away game of the season to earn Top Don, scoring an 8 in the 3-5 victory over Harrogate. However, his highest rating came in the 3-0 victory at home to his former club Newport, operating at right centre-back. Norman had a lot of highs but his low moments weren’t all that low. He scored a 4 in the 2-1 home defeat to Stockport and a 4.5 in the 1-1 draw at home to Grimsby. He only dropped below a 6 nine times in his 32 games, a level of consistency that would’ve been pleasant to see across the entire defence.

7 – Alex Gilbey – 6.60: Alex Gilbey being as low as 7th came as a huge surprise to me and if I wasn’t using the stats from the ratings he would easily be in my top three if not top one. If I removed his 2 rated performance in the home leg of the play-offs, Gilbey would actually be third place. However, rules are rules so 7th is where Gilbey stays. The vice-captain played a massive 39 times with the only two games he missed being the two EFL Trophy games against Chelsea U21’s and Brighton U21’s. Gilbey was awarded Top Don more times than any other player, earning the title five times for his performances away at Mansfield (9) and Stockport (6), his home performances against Gillingham (8) and Tranmere (8), as well as the 2-0 EFL Cup defeat at home to Wycombe (7). He also scored a rating of 9 on four separate occasions where he wasn’t even Top Don. These were the home games against Bradford, Newport, Salford and Walsall. These are stats worthy of someone who won plenty of individual accolades at the end of season awards.

6 – Joe Tomlinson – 6.62: The highest rated defender on this list is Joe Tomlinson. Having started the season as a back-up player, Tomlinson has emerged as a key player in Mike Williamson’s squad, appearing 30 times. He was awarded Top Don four times for his home performances against AFC Wimbledon (8.5), Forest Green (9) and Bradford (9.5) in addition to his performance away at Newport (7.5). Aside from the play-off games, Tomlinson never dropped below a 4.5, though he did hit this low rating a few times in home games against Harrogate and Stockport as well as the tragic 1-0 away defeat at AFC Wimbledon. Although he has occasional dips in quality, Tomlinson is essential to the way Dons play and keeping him at the club for next season will be vital to the team’s success!

5 – Ethan Robson – 6.63: There have been a few shock placements so far but this is the one that made me go back and check my entire player ratings database for mistakes. Ethan Robson played 26 times in games I covered the ratings for. Despite being in the top five, Robson only achieved Top Don once. This was the opening game of the season in the 3-5 away win at Wrexham where the midfielder scored a perfect 10, one of only two players to achieve the flawless rating this season. Aside from this, Robson only had a couple of high-rated performances, 8.5’s at home to Bradford and Swindon respectively. It was actually his consistency levels that place him this high on the list, only dropping to a 4.5 once, and this was only a substitute appearance in the 4-4 home draw with Sutton in the final league game of the season. He may not be the flashiest of players but he does the dirty work very well. It’s a shame Robson never got the run in the team he probably deserved but unfortunately, he was kept out the side by two very talented playmakers…

4 – Jack Payne – 6.65: The most observant of you reading will notice that the two players keeping Robson out of the side haven’t featured in this article until now. Jack Payne is the first of these. The playmaker appeared 34 times this season, earning Top Don thrice. He stood out in the home game against Grimsby (7.5) as well as the 3-2 FA Cup defeat at Reading (7.5) but it was the 3-2 win at home to Swindon where Payne pulled off his top performance of the season, an outstanding 9.5. With this being said, he did struggle in the high pressure games at times such as the away games against AFC Wimbledon (4.5), Stockport (4). Payne was also totally outclassed in the play-offs, scoring a 3 in the first leg and a 2.5 in the reverse. Despite this, Payne has been a fantastic addition to the squad so we can only hope there’s a chance for him to return next season on a more permanent basis.

3 – Craig MacGillivray – 6.68: MacGillivray in the top three is without a doubt the big talking point of this article. In 17 appearances the keeper averaged a very impressive 6.68, with his performances only dropping below a 6 twice. The two poor performances were the 2-4 win over Salford (5) and the 1-0 defeat at home to Harrogate (4) which was the game where MacGillivray fired a clearance straight at O’Hora, resulting in a rather embarrassing own goal. However, it’s worth noting that MacGillivray had put together consistent performances aside from the two anomalies. He may not have been particularly natural playing the ball out but he’s a top shot-stopper for the level and based on these stats, it was a huge mistake trying to drop him and then letting him go out on loan to Stevenage. Most notably, his only Top Don of the season came in the 2-0 home win over Crawley. MacGillivray scored an 8.5 for the amount of times he was able to deny the opposition despite their dominance of the fixture.

2 – Lewis Bate – 6.78: Lewis Bate was always going to be there or thereabouts on this list. The way he transformed the midfield with his technical ability and composure was a privilege to watch and we won’t realise what we’ve lost until we start trying to play without him next season. In his 20 games he only dropped below a rating of 6 four times, and two of these were the play-off games against Crawley. The other two poor games were the 3-3 draw away at Notts County (4) and the 1-2 defeat to Morecambe (5.5) when Bate had only just joined the club and unfortunately slipped as a ball was played to him in a dangerous position. The resulting chance turned out to be Morecambe’s winning goal. Bate was awarded Top Don three times for performances at home to Newport (9.5) and Crewe (9) as well as his 6.5 rated performance in a miserable 1-0 loss away at Grimsby. It was often the case that even when the team played badly, Bate performed well and that Grimsby game was the perfect example of this. Without Bate, The Dons’ team is significantly weaker.

1 – Max Dean – 6.80: After discussing 25 other players we’ve finally reached the number one player this season according to the player ratings… and it’s none other than Max Dean! The young striker’s been on a wild journey this season, having to battle for a place in the side against the experienced trio of Eisa, Leko and Harrison. In the end Dean well and truly earned the right to lead the line for this squad, and he did it admirably! He was awarded four Top Dons for his performances at home against Mansfield (7) and Notts County (7), the 2-4 away win at Salford (8) and most impressively, the 5-0 home win against Walsall where Dean scored two goals and assisted another two in the space of just 35 minutes, earning himself a perfect 10 rating in the process. Even when he wasn’t scoring goals, it was very rare for Dean to have a bad game, with his poorest performance aside from the play-offs being a 5 rated substitute appearance in the 0-1 defeat at home to Harrogate. This was during the run of games that led to the departure of Graham Alexander. Dean’s energy not only improved his own performance, but it inspired his teammates to find another gear and all of this put together makes him a worthy Top Don in the overall rankings!

Final Thoughts – So there we have it, the player rankings for the 2023/24 season are complete! The new system of deciding the rankings certainly made things interesting and there are definitely some flaws. I certainly wouldn’t have put Dawson Devoy and Conor Grant in my top eleven Dons players for the season by choice so maybe this system doesn’t work quite as well with the rotational players due to lack of game time. However, it does create some intriguing discussion and it allows us to think about the squad in a different way.

I realise this was an extremely long article so thank you very much to anyone that managed to read it the whole way through, I hope it was worth the read! I should hopefully be returning with the player ratings next season but you’ll be hearing from me again much sooner than that. I’m bringing back my released and re-signed series this summer so if you’re interested in learning about some of the free agents that could potentially join the club this transfer window then be sure to give it a read! I will also be bringing you some exclusive content via The Sports Deck and I promise you it will be worth giving that article a read when it comes out, watch this space! For one final time this season, thank you for your incredible support and bring on next season!

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