I remember leaving the ground on Boxing Day feeling angry that we’d lost a game against MK Dons that should have delivered at least a point.
Somewhere inside of me, I felt resentment that they’d come to town, loaded with talent, and been no better than us, yet they walked away with three points. It really rankled me that a team riding high in the division were no better than us in terms of their approach, and yet they’d won. It was even worse that we’d taken the lead, and had chances to win the game. However, I consoled myself with the fact January was around the corner, we’d strengthen and be a different prospect in a month’s time.
Here we are, one month (or so) later, and I feel almost the same. It winds me up that we’ve gone to MK Dons, again taken a lead, again had chances to extend the lead and still come away with nothing, not because the home side were that much better, but because we still can’t stop gifting goals. I’ve been saying for months now we’re so, so close to being a decent side, but time is running out for us to prove it. I’m desperate to write this season off, eager to leave games with an air of apathy knowing we are neither going up, nor going down, but it seems whenever we look like putting daylight between us and the bottom four, we shoot ourselves in the foot.
I kept writing about Groundhog Day before Christmas, and here we are in the same position. We do the same things; we play decent football, we’re never out of a game and with a different bounce at both ends, we could win. However, just as it was before Christmas, we don’t get the bounce, we contrive to create our own downfall and all the promise I can see in the squad is left unfulfilled, again and again. Hell, for today, you may as well just read last week’s report and save me some time writing this up. Genuinely, think about it; we take a 1-0 lead through John Marquis, we attack well down the left but do nothing down the right, we give a silly goal away to let the opposition in, and we’re done in the air, in the box to lose the game. That’s the story of our trip to Milton Keynes and the visit of Burton Albion. Same old, same old.
Before I go on, I should tell you I’m in a foul mood anyway. As many of you know, I am going through a period of ill health; today I’ve had to use a glyceryl trinitrate spray just because I walked the dog up a hill, and frankly everything has gone wrong from the moment I woke up. I was meant to be at a gig yesterday, one which was cancelled with just five days notice (hence not being at the game), I’ve had a fish die, I hit my finger with a hammer and now I’m at home, alone on a Saturday night, unable to eat cheese (and other nice things) because apparently, my cholesterol is high. I like cheese. Couple that with the fact I didn’t expect to win today, I said as much on the podcast, and it’s just been a day of pessimism and me walking around with a face like a smacked arse. Even though I expected nothing, it still hurts. I suppose when you’re expecting a kick in the balls, it still hurts when someone actually delivers it, doesn’t it? Couple that with my mood and you might feel I’m going to be negative over the next few paragraphs.
The problem is I can’t be that negative, because I don’t think we were bad. I saw plenty of adverse reactions, just as I did a month or so ago, but I maintain this side is only a couple of tweaks from being a good League One outfit. I hope that comes to fruition. I still firmly believe there are four teams worse than us; in fact, Jonathan Harries, an MK Dons fan, messaged me a moment ago to say we’re the best team, other than Rotherham, to visit their stadium this season. Sadly, you don’t get three points for glowing references.
The day didn’t start well; you might recall how excited I was in my piece that dropped this morning that we could welcome a team sheet thinking who would be playing, not fearing who would not. That went well; 2 pm arrives and there’s no Adam Jackson. I might have missed the reason why, but I’ve heard nothing. Is he not fit? Has he tweaked something again? I’m not blaming an unsettled defence for us losing the game, but you’ve got to admit that their first goal just needed a defender to come in and clean up; instead we gave away a header in the six-yard box. It’s madness, how many times the team drops and there’s an absentee nobody expects. On the day Chris Maguire comes back, Adam Jackson disappears. we’re told Joe Walsh might be back for Tuesday, and it can’t come soon enough, but should I worry we might lose another major player in exchange? Fate seems to keep dealing us that hand.
Even with that, I thought we started well. All that pessimism was blown away in the early stages as MK defended a bit like us, and we sought to capitalise on it. Once again, our attacking left looked really solid, with Bramall and Scully causing all manner of problems. Briefly, I wondered why I’d been so fearful, especially when John Marquis gave us the lead. He started the move that he also finished, once again tapping home from close range after a ball from the left. Imagine, if we had the same delivery from the attacking right! Seriously though, we looked decent in those opening exchanges.
In fact, it could have been 2-0 when their defender deflected an effort onto the bar, and I do wonder if this time, had we got the second, we might have had the fortitude to go on and close the game down. Maybe, maybe not, we never got to find out. Instead, an MK side I didn’t think looked as good as Boxing Day got themselves into the game, but without causing a real problem for our defence. You know what happens in that instance; we cause the problem ourselves. They could have got level when a weak McGrandles clearance was blasted back at goal, but it dropped wide. That was the warning, one we didn’t heed.
Their goal is appalling in my humble opinion because the ball should never have been recycled. A phase of play has broken down and three of our players watch a ball head towards the middle of the park, where Liam Cullen isn’t able to reach it. Pure miscommunication, four watching as one white shirt comes in and picks it up. That starts the move, one which results in a rather innocuous shot seemingly bobbling right in front of Griffiths. He palms it up into the air, and not one of our defenders is strong enough to get on it as it drops down. To his credit, Poole is in the mix with two MK players, but everyone else watches as they simply bulldoze their former player out of the way to level. There are three players challenging for the ball, two white shirts, and yet another three of our players are within five yards. More poor defending, words that I type week in, week out. Grounhog Day.
It was even more frustrating because there wasn’t much between the two sides at that point, and given the fact we’d hit the bar as well as scoring, few could have begrudged us a lead at half time. Instead, the home side got the lifeline they needed, and sent us in unhappy at the break.