MK Dons manager Mike Williamson was full of praise for Addicks loanee Jack Payne following his Player of the Match display against Forest Green Rovers.
The 29-year-old picked up his fourth goal of the season against Rovers, scoring a well-driven low shot past Luke Daniels to double the Dons’ advantage.
Payne was sent to Buckinghamshire from Charlton Athletic in August and has quickly become one of the first names on the team sheet for Williamson. In 17 appearances this season, he has contributed to goals six times, with five of them coming in the previous six League Two matches.
Deployed as a deep-lying playmaker, the Dons boss has sat the London-born midfielder in front of his backline, tasked with controlling and developing attacks for his teammates.
Speaking after their 2-0 win over Forest Green, which also saw Max Dean score for Milton Keynes, Mike Williamson said [Quotes via the MK Citizen]: “He’s a character in there, he has a tenacity and a resilience. He’s what I call a street footballer – he always wants the ball, he fights and scraps regardless of who he plays against. He’s a big player for us.
“We want to play through that position, and he needs to know the roles. Over the last week or two in training, he’s starting to dictate things and he understands the structure, and he has goals too.
“We want him further up the pitch, if we can, but he can do both sides of the game.”
The victory at Stadium: MK saw the home side become unbeaten in six games in the fourth division, brushing aside a Forest Green Rovers side struggling at the wrong end of the table.
The Nailsworth side caused some trouble for the Dons’ defence towards the final whistle, something the ex-Newcastle United centre-back Williamson felt his side handled well.
He continued: “We had to show a different side to our character in the second half, we showed resilience and had to defend well, and had to be tough to beat.
“We got the two goals in the first half, and then in the second, we got into the final third a handful of times and our quality let us down. We had to navigate our way through, Forest Green took more risk, it was a different puzzle in the second half.
“On another day, we could have got a third and that would have put it to bed but overall, it’s a pleasing afternoon.”
It is a quick turnaround for MK Dons, with a long trek north to Morecambe on Friday night in the last game before Christmas.
Jack Payne is a very good player in League Two. His last campaign for Swindon Town in 2021/22 demonstrates this, with 13 goals and six assists for the Robins. It is a shame that he couldn’t continue that fine form when he moved to the Addicks the following season. The decision to loan him out looks to be paying off so far, and hopefully this time he can go back to the Valley with some momentum behind him and prove himself a league higher.
MK Dons have strung together a respectable run over the past seven games, and having a three-week break hasn’t stopped their momentum. Whilst not on the level of other teams like Barrow or Bradford under ex-boss Graham Alexander, Williamson has got his new side ticking nicely. The Dons will seek to challenge at the top of the table, and having players like Payne on top form will surely see them there by May.