The New Faces: MK Dons

Or, if you’re Wimbledon, MK.

I don’t know where I stand on MK Dons. I used to be incredibly angry at what happened and I believe that however long ago a ‘wrong’ took place, time doesn’t make it a right. then again, what has actually happened? They’ve found themselves competing in a division lower than the ‘real’ Wimbledon and the only people they really cheated were good honest non-league clubs like Fylde, Salford and Billericay in snatching a place in the league.

Of course, when we play them I’ll join in the Franchise FC stuff with everyone else, but deep down I’m not sure I’m as angry as I was once. There’s a lot more to the story than the simple theft of a football club and frankly, I’ve got better teams to despise than this lot.

Image result for mk donsMK Dons

I’m not going to do too much here about who they are because we’ve pretty much covered it in the opening gambit. What I will say is Stadium MK, no matter what your politics, is a nice arena for football.

The Dons make a good pantomime villain don’t they? They’re the ones who get booed on cue, the Baron Greenback to Wimbledon’s Danger Mouse, Texas Pete to Wimbledon’s Super Ted.

It’s not my fight though, there’s bigger problems in football, especially now they’re in the basement division and Wimbledon are above them.

Last Meetings

Here’s the thing: we’ve never beaten MK Dons. The only game I can talk fondly of is a 3-2 reverse back in September 2006. I can’t believe it is 12 years since that match, the day the Dons inflicted our first defeat of the season on us. We never led the game, but it was the best I’ve ever felt after a defeat. They were fresh into our division and favourites to go back up, much like now. However, we set a pace too and were right up there until February. This game started badly, Izzy McLeod scored a fifth minute penalty for them before Aaron Wilbrahim made it 2-0 before the half hour.

Lee Frecklington pulled one back for us and to be fair, we were matching them all over the park. Despite them having players who went on to bigger and better things, the stand out player for them that day is still there 12 years later, Dean Lewington. Clive Platt restored their two-goal lead before McLeod was sent off. Amusingly, as he came off Casey gave him a round of ‘f’s only for McLeod to take umbridge. The stewards got involved just as Lee Beevers put us right back in the game. It finished 3-2, but we deserved a point.

we drew 2-2 at their place later in the season, Paul Morgan was sent off late on as they grabbed a 90th minute equaliser, but the following season it was a 4-1 capitulation live on TV that cost Schoey his job. Since that season our paths haven’t crossed, a Ben Wright goal was all we had to show for the return leg under Peter Jackson.

Last Season

 

The Dons finished five points adrift of safety, second from bottom in League One. It was a miserable season with Robbie Neilson dismissed half way through after a series of dressing room bust ups and player disharmony. There was a hostile atmosphere in the stands as the Dons tumbled down the division.

Crowds remained steady, anywhere from 7000-9000 but performances only marginally improved under caretaker boss Dan Micciche (pictured). He had previously managed the England U16 side, but he couldn’t bring his credentials over to the senior game. They lost seven of their last eight games, including heavy defeats against Southend (4-0) and Wigan (5-1). In the EFL Trophy they were thumped by a strong Chelsea U21 side after winning their group, not that there was any comfort to be drawn from that.

The Summer

We’ll see a familiar face in the dugout, Paul Tisdale left Exeter for MK after locking horns with us four times last season. Much of his pre-season preparation has been centred on raiding his old club too,  Jordan Moore-Taylor the biggest name to desert the Grecians for Milton Keynes, but Ryan Varley and Robbie Simpson have followed him too.

There hasn’t been as much of a clear out as the fans might like, but that does mean that they’ve retained much of the squad deemed good enough for League One until relegation. Losing Ed Upson is a big blow, but perhaps keeping the likes of Kieran Agard is a bonus.

Agard was deployed out wide for much of last season which affected the amount of goals he scored, but he’s stayed with the club, as has Alex Gilbey. They’ve brought in Mitch Hancox and Lawson D’Ath too, the former from National league winners Macclesfield, the latter from Luton reserves.

Ins: Jordan Moore-Taylor, Ryan Varley, Robbie Simpson (Exeter City), Ryan Watson (Barnet), Mitch Hancox (Macclesfield), Jordan Houghton (Chelsea U23) and Lawson D’Ath (Luton Town)

Outs: Scott Wootton (Plymouth Argyle), Ben Tilney (Larne), Ed Upson (Bristol Rovers), Nigel Reo-Coker, Connor Furlong, Hugo Logan, Giorgio Rasulo (Released)

2018/19

Much depends on Kieran Agard finding his scoring boots, but if he’s deployed off Robbie Simpson rather than out wide he could be a 25-goal a season striker. He’s only 28-years old and once moved to Bristol City for £750,000 so there’s plenty to be afraid of if he starts scoring. He did only grab six last season though, but history doesn’t always repeat itself.

Alex Gilbey and Jordan Houghton are expected to form the spine of the side, with Jordan Moore-Taylor bring the ball out of defence for them to surge forward. Indeed, they look very strong in the back four as well as the centre of the park, but whether they deliver an attacking threat is another matter altogether.

Tisdale liked to mix up his formations last season, but if he goes with a flat 4-4-2, allowing the two young midfielders a start, then he could also pair Agard and Simpson up top. The problem here is squad depth more than anything, Lawson D’Ath and Ryan Varley are squad players, not regular League Two starters. If Agard doesn’t score, what is the plan B? Sam Nombe spent time out on loan at Oxford City, Osman Sow scored 23 in 52 for Hearts but managed just two in 20 for MK last season and Brandon Thomas-Asante is without a goal in all of his 22 league games.

At 22-years old maybe Robbie Muirhead is an option, he’s capped to U19 level by Scotland and at 6ft 3in could be the ‘Jayden Stockley’ figure that Tisdale likes to play into.

They don’t have the Hiram Boateng figure that Tisdale used as a ‘go to’ last season though. Chuks Aneke and Ousse Cissé should be better than they were last season and both are lucky not to have been shifted on, but only big performances will save their careers. Dean Lewington is also reaching the twilight of his career, at 34 he’s been a solid servant to the Dons for 15 seasons and with Wimbledon for two before that. He’s a one-club man with 699 appearances in all competitions, but Mitch Hancox arriving might spell the end for him this year.