August has certainly been an “ups and downs” month for Paul Tisdale’s side.
From that dramatic winner against Shrewsbury, to holding out a strong Lincoln outfit for the best part of 70 minutes, to being stuffed 4-0 at home to Posh. Add into that a dramatic win on penalties in the derby and you’ve got yourself one heck of a rollercoaster month there at Stadium:MK.
Whilst some will be of the opinion that it was a poor month results wise, I feel we’ve faired well in what will be a difficult season for our club.
Coming into this new season back in the third tier we could never have had the same attitude as previous years. We were not going to be promotion candidates, scarcely play-off candidates, and in fact anything above the drop zone would probably have pleased the majority of the fanbase. To now sit 15th – above the likes of promotion candidates Portsmouth and Oxford as well as rivals AFC Wimbledon – is a great achievement.
I’ll take a fairly brief look into this past month and give my thoughts on where we are and where we need to improve. Let’s begin with that opening weekend…
Matchday 1 – Bury (A)
What an absolute shambles this has turned out to be. Kicked out of the league, millions in debt, their owner now under investigation for fraud. My best wishes are with all Bury fans right now during what is without doubt the most challenging part of the club’s history.
But looking at the MK Dons perspective of this fixture being postponed, it provided a real challenge for Tisdale. All the preparation that had gone into this opening fixture suddenly went out the window, furthermore putting the Dons one week behind everyone else in the division. Difficulty.
But Tis didn’t fret – instead playing an in-house match on the Saturday which saw a range of players get minutes under their belt. Pre-season schedules were duly altered to incorporate this extra week.
The majority of fans seemed to enjoy themselves, seeing it as an opportunity to make a day trip to Manchester. Some went to Salford vs Stevenage, others went to Stockport County. Will and I instead opted to sit in my kitchen 10 miles away from Bury and have some tinnies watching Jeff Stelling and the others commentate on the opening weekend. Good day had by all.
Oh, and we still managed to finish the day above AFC Wimbledon without having kicked a ball.
Matchday 2 – Shrewsbury Town (H)
Finally, a game of football!
We kicked our own season off at Stadium:MK in brilliant style, former loanee Ethan Ebanks-Landell accidentally nodding in a Rhys Healey shot in stoppage time to give the Dons three points on their first outing back in League One.
Ben Reeves also claimed the assist for this – fantastic to see the blonde Messi back in action after two years away from Camp Moo.
Carabao Cup Round 1 – AFC Wimbledon (A)
Derby day! Another great performance in Kingston-upon-Thames saw MK progress into the next round of the cup at the expense of arch rivals AFC Wimbledon.
Conor McGrandles made up for his early penalty miss by slotting home on the 16 minute mark to cancel out Scott Wagstaff’s early opener for the hosts.
19-year-old David Kasumu then popped up with a wonderful strike at the start of the second half, finding the top corner from just outside the box. Queue bedlem in the away end.
Lee Nicholls then repeated his heroics of 2017 saving a tame penalty from Wimbledon captain Joe Pigott. It wasn’t meant to be however, as the blue Dons found an equaliser late on through Luke O’Neill.
Penalties ensued, and MK came out on top. Nicholls saved his second of the evening before Pigott blasted his effort over. Alex Gilbey was on task to cooly slot home the winning strike for Tisdale’s side.
Kingsmeadow? More like Lee Nicholls’ playground.
Matchday 3 – Wycombe Wanderers (A)
Tequila! Oh wait. Not anymore.
A trip down to non-rivals-but-we-play-in-the-same-county-as-them Wycombe Wanderers was the first away of the season. Also our first defeat.
After a typical Trevor Kettle performance from the man himself in the middle throughout the 90 minutes – seeing three penalties given – former Dons loanee David Wheeler, who found the winning goal against Mansfield back in May, popped up late on to give the Chairboys a probably well-deserved victory. 3-2 FT.
There couldn’t really be any complaints from the MK faithful with the Blues having dominated proceedings throughout the afternoon. They’ve a very decent side and with the addition of Rolando Aarons I wouldn’t be shocked to see them up in the top half this year.
Matchday 4 – Lincoln City (H)
Probably the most gutsy performance you’ll ever see. Ever.
Hiram Boateng shone as the Dons put last season’s rivals Lincoln City to the sword. Defenders putting their bodies on the line (and contributing up front!), midfielders giving their all to win the ball back. Attackers playing an effective press.
Too many times over the past few years have we seen the same done to us at home on a Tuesday night – sides scoring scrappy goals at the expense of luck/poor defending and then sitting back for the rest of the game. Lovely to see from us and a fantastic three points on the board.
Matchday 5 – Peterborough United (H)
One to forget.
Whilst it’s easy to blame our own players – and, believe me, we were very poor – I think this match simply showed how good this Peterborough side really is.
Marcus Maddison once again controlled the game, opening the scoring with a beauty from some 28 yards. He also then claimed the assist for the second, putting the ball on a plate for the clinical Ivan Toney to head home.
Mo Eisa then showed his quality finding a third before the break before then making it four in the second half. I’ll happily admit I was in the bar for the majority of that second 45.
I came out of that game somewhat concerned about this side – whilst we had looked fairly stable up until then, Ferguson had clearly discovered a plethora of flaws within our system and successfully cracked them. Not good.
Carabao Cup Round 2 – Southend United (A)
Another away draw in the cup, this time away to strugglers Southend United.
Having lost every game so far – bar victory over Stevenage in the first round of the cup – it’s fair to say this was a game expected to be won by MK. And so it turned out to be.
Goals from Rhys Healey, Callum Brittain, Hiram Boateng and super Sammy Nombe allowed the Dons to cruise to a 4-1 victory in Essex – setting up a third round tie with Liverpool in the process.
This Liverpool tie will not only bring the masses back to the plastic bowl, but also generate some much needed cash in the process to fund exploits in the January window.
Matchday 6 – Accrington Stanley (A)
After taking the lead through Kieran Agard early doors, two quick-fire goals from Stanley gave the hosts their first win of the season.
Another Lee Nicholls penalty save kept the Dons in the game, but alas the Dons were unable to find an equaliser – albeit with a 90th minute Healey goal being controversially ruled out as offside.
The performance being described with expletives I cannot use on this website by a member of the board on the train back home, it certainly wasn’t one to justify the round trip up to Lancashire for the 300-odd strong MK Army. Still, once again, a good day was had by all.
The highlight of the day was probably ‘The Railway’, a decent little pub we found near the train station. Worth a visit if you ever go there, but don’t sing too much as the barmaid doesn’t like it.
Certainly could have been worse, but also could have been better.
We’ll improve over time as injured players come back, but until then we’re going to need to grind out whatever we can. Our defence hugely concerns me, and I’m not sure we’ll be finishing as high as some seem to think.