Saturday, 31 December 2011
So the month of Christmas was upon us and the month when the League table gives a good idea of what to expect ..or so some say.
I always think you get a good idea but a lot can change with the transfers in and out in January and the winter months are notorious for injuries not to mention the suspensions kick in so a squad with depth and quality is the squad that will seriously challenge for the Auto spots and the play off spots as well. I think we have a good if not smallish squad and still think we will make the play offs and the lottery that the play offs are. I don't think we have enough to make the Automatics unless the Sheffield's and Charlton badly mess up and I still think as one of the longest serving teams in this division Huddersfield will finally if not get out by Auto make the play off final whether we play them or not remains to be seen I just have that feeling we are going to start next season with the stadium work complete in the same league and like the season we got promoted have a great season in our sort of new improved ground or maybe I am just being too romantic!
First game of the month saw the trip to Underhill and the FA Cup game against Barnet we played the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation although it always looks like 4-5-1 to me but hey ho and the team lined up Martin , Smith, Flanagan, MacKenzie, Lewington , S Williams, Potter , Balanta, Ibehre, Bowditch; MacDonald with Doumbe, O'Shea, G Williams, Alli on the bench Robbo put out a strong team and didn't give the young George Williams another chance of glory ,Martin suffered a dead leg and was replaced by Mcloughlin on thirty four minutes Chicksen came on for Potter at eighty one and Powell came on for MacDonald on eighty six and promptly scored scored two minutes later and we progressed to the third round of the FA cup with relative ease and our old favourite Izale even managed to put one past our Irish under 21 keeper.
The day after the game the draw for the third round was made and we learnt we were to play Queens Park Rangers at Stadiummk I guess the reaction was a bit mixed with some saying we never get a big club and some happy it was another Prem club ,there were some who said an away draw would have been better and some like me who said if we keep the price down we could make potentially more from a home draw, personally I was pretty happy with the draw knowing there are a few QPR fans in MK and that it will attract the interest of the nuetrals and the occasional fan. It will be the first time we have got to the third Round since the 2009/10 season when the then Premier League Burnley beat us at stadiummk.
The tie is due to take place on the weekend of January 7th to 8th meaning our away game at Stevenage has been postponed with a new date yet to be announced so another bloody Tuesday night game it is then ! the prices were later confirmed as starting at twenty pounds with two pound discount for ST holders which was okay I thought to watch a Prem team in the third round of the most famous competition of all.
Martin and Gleeson were absent from training on the Monday after Barnet obviously Martin was recovering from his dead leg but the Gleeson absence was a mystery and lead myself and another fan present to speculate and let our imagination run riot ! I spoke to Karl and he was happy with the QPR draw and thought it would be a good test in fact we had a good chat before he joined in with the training funnily enough about fans reaction to Barnet and how we are playing also what the fans would think if certain things happened !! and I get the impression when we speak he hopes the fans are happy with him and that what we think means a lot to him.
Karl and Jabo were nominated for npower L1 manager and player of the month awards but despite us winning three and being unbeaten we were pipped by Charlton but as our blip started after he won the last one I wasnt too bothered.
On the Thursday before the Tranmere game I saw the second appearance this season of the guest coach Ian Wright (he was here a week later for his third appearance)and his meaty minder at Woughton he actualy did a lot more this time as he arrived before the players and took part in the training game and he stayed back to coach some of the players at shooting and pens although funnily enough Charlie Mac wasnt one I guess they figure his scoring record is good enough and he doesn't need it..well most of his are in the box !!
On Saturday it was the long haul to Tranmere for the team and travelling fans, the team lined up Martin, Smith, MacKenzie, Beevers, Lewington (c)in defence with the midfield of S. Williams, Potter, Chadwick, with the three forwards Ibehre, Bowditch, MacDonald in whatever position they go in in a 4-3-2-1 formation lol the bench saw a return for Gleeson Doumbe Balanta Powell and Flanagan with McLoughlin also back on the strong looking bench. I did think that Gleeson on the bench was a bit of a surprise as if he wants to go Id have thought he would be in the shop window for the sales as it were ! but then thinking about it if he is playing badly we might not sell him come January and we'd be left with an unhappy player till June when he goes he for nothing.
The mystery deepened as Gleeson was named as a sub but then O'Shea took his place and the rumour was Gleeson had a strop about being on the bench, reading various tweets Id wished I could say what I had heard in the week but obviously I couldn't so had to wait till someone else broke the news most of you had probably guessed. The result was a good away win taking us up to third but the stroppy midfielder took up a fair share of the after match discussion, the goals came again from Jabo the on fire striker who seems to be having the best season ever and the natural successor to Gleeson should he leave in January Shaun Williams got on the score sheet as well.
The game against Preston saw Williams co-commentate on three counties and we missed him I thought, with Potter and Gleeson back from the mysterious foot injury seeming to have trouble getting their passes to a fellow Dons player.
But overall I thought Preston were the better team with no manager and the hatchet man Risdale looking to make savings and no doubt get rid of the surplus to requirements players the talented Coutts as captain and his team were playing for their jobs.The towering 6'5 McCoumbe in defence bullying our players off the ball in a game we never really got into despite the superior possession figures, I thought we just looked the second best team on the day and we lost at home,it was going to happen sometime Id just thought it might be to a team above us.
The two Sheffield's were both now above us and I think they will take some shifting I still think Charlton will wobble and Huddersfield to me are the team we need to be matching result wise to stay in the pack Brentford continue to be my surprise package for a play off spot as I have thought they would be all season and will be team that could take our fifth spot come end of season but we cant discount Stevenage who have quietly sneaked up the table while we all watched the Sheffield's and Huddersfield.
Karl and John both had their contracts.. well tarted up a bit ( as they had already extended them earlier in the season )and I guess it just meant they got a pay rise and some better clauses put in which hopefully means we get good compensation should one or both get poached the comments Karl has made recently about one day leaving (lately after the Preston manager went)makes me think we as a club are covering such eventualality when or if it does happen..who knows!
Looking at the home attendance's at the roughly half way point of eleven games I saw we are a thousand up on last season and this despite the number of away fans travelling being down, the natural conclusion is the home fans figure is getting back toward the nine thousand mark baring in mind the figure picks up later in season, at the moment it stands at 8246 average gate if worked out on total attendance this season of 90714 against last seasons 89710.
While I was in a nerdy mood I looked at where our goals have come from after hearing we had scored most goals in all four leagues and was surprised to see we don't have one player in the league list Rochdale's Ashley Grimes was there with eight goals so I had a look at our OS stats and saw the highest scorers are Jabo and Charlie Mac on seven with Bowditch on six even Lewie chipped in with same amount as Balanta on four and I thought what if we had a Jordan Rhodes on fifteen or Bradley W-P on fourteen in the side ! even Preston's Neil Mellor had nine.. where would we be now in the league with a twenty goal a season player.
Many of us were disappointed to learn the kick off time for the Orient game had been moved to 1pm meaning the official coaches would be leaving at 9.30am on Boxing day a full half hour before they would leave for Brentford and three and a half hours before the match started, meaning many fans would have to get up at eight or eight thirty the day after Christmas to make the trip and a lot were put off.Due to the industrial action by transport workers making your own way there was problematic and the only choice apart from the official coach was to drive down yourself.
On Monday the 19th we played a closed door match with Millwall at the Stadium with the pitch at Woughton being too wet and boggy the result was 3-0 to us with Charlie Collins opening the scoring minutes later Adam Chicksen doubled the lead curling his shot to the left of the keeper, a handball inside the area gave Shaun Williams the chance to score from the spot which he duly did making the score three nil in the first half. The second half saw no goals but it was a good test for the players ahead of the Christmas fixtures and a chance for the fringe players to show what they were made of Lewis Guy was back from his loan at Oxford which surprised me as I thought he'd stay till end of season with McNamee and O'Shea I really cant see he will be needed unless of course Balanta is going back to QPR. The starting eleven were McLoughlin, Ivey-Ward, Flanagan, Kouo-Doumbe, Chicksen, Guy, Williams, Powell, Balanta, O'Shea,Collins
In other news I was surprised to see mkdons online shut down most of you will have read the blog there so not sure how many of you have found this months offering I know from email recieved on Christmas eve that the owner has been asked to develop the MKDSA site and so has rejoined the SA to do so and has closed the other site which is a shame as it was an independent site I will put a link up on twitter @Gunnerdon and http://www.thezonemk.co.uk/phpbb3/viewforum.php?f=106 for the blog and see how it goes.
I had only received a couple of stats for the blog from mkdons online admin but it got 700 hits one month and the last figure I got was for the first two days of October where it had already got 460 plus and that was the last stat I got. For the uncut version I have had 450 plus hits on top of the mkdons online figure and that is where any future blogs will be found so excuse the typo's and bad grammar as its uncut. When I started doing the blog on the old mkdons forum I said Id be happy if fifty/hundred people read it so to be getting nearer a thousand than a hundred is staggering and thank you to everyone who reads the blog and let your friends know lol.
As Christmas approached the boss Karl Robinson along with goalkeeping coach Paul Heald captain Dean Lewington and a number of other players took bags full of presents on behalf of the Club to children at MK Hospital, the whole squad put their hands in their pockets to give gifts for the visit as well an outdoor playhouse for the ward.Awadh Ahmed, Daniel Powell and David Martin were among the other players who delivered Christmas gifts to the Children's Ward.
We also heard that Stadiummk will welcome back the Saints on Saturday 21st January, while we are away to Notts County so another full house that day Id imagine, saying that the sales of QPR tickets are going well with a couple of weeks to go which means the League 1 away fixture at Stevenage has been rescheduled for Tuesday 24th January kick-off 7.45pm which wont be as well attended I fear, I spoke to Karl and he reckoned we would get fifteen thousand at the QPR game.
On Boxing day we played Leyton Orient we lined up in our familiar 4-2-3-1 of Martin, A Smith, MacKenzie, Kouo-Doumbe , Lewington (c), Potter, Gleeson; Chadwick), Ibehre, Bowditch , MacDonald . After what some called a slow start( but was probably more down to a cautious respect of the O's who have shown some form of late) we opened the scoring with a Bowditch goal after a lovely cross from Adam Smith before half time and then there was only one team in it. Smith's screamer for the second was watched into the net by the 362 Dons fans who found a way round the transport strike and Charlie Mac got the third a tap in after a strike from Lewie was saved , having a bit of a soft spot for Orient I wont gloat too much and sometimes the opposition view is a good a way to sum up the game and I found a lovely combination of wit and honesty on another blog
To quote: it seemed apparent that the MK Dons squad had spent Christmas Day drinking protein shakes, doing one-handed press-ups and firing themselves up by watching the famous Battle of Agincourt speech from Henry V. The Orient team, meanwhile, had clearly passed the time with their heads stuck down a bumper-sized box of Quality Street while plumped on the sofa sniggering, burping and farting their way through Home Alone.Goal times were: Bowditch 37, A Smith 57, MacDonald 63 the attendance was 4,162 (362 Dons).
Our next game and the final one of the month was at Brentford and with the loan spells of Beevers and Balanta about to finish we heard talk of Karl wanting to keep both, personally I would not have been too sorry to see the back of Balanta who has not been the same this season and Id have been quite happy to see O'Shea or even the in form McNamee currently at Wycombe given a chance but I think we should not leave ourselves short of players and if both players go I would like to see Karl get cover and keep the squad about the same size.
I wouldn't even mind another Prem rising star in the Adam Smith type mould or a young hungry player like Balanta was last season. Beevers looked a cert to be called back to his parent club of Sheffield Wednesday and Megson cant be criticised too much for not helping a rival for promotion keep one of his players at the business end of the season.
As I alluded to earlier the In's and outs of January can be make or break time for any club and a club like ours which is watching the wage bill expenditure has to get the balance right.
And so the the last game of the year was upon us and there it was no wait and suss the opposition out we came flying out of the starting blocks like a team possessed and scored two goals in less than ten minutes and showed total domination the whole of the first half with Potter and Balanta getting the early goals. Not to be outdone on his former manor Charlie MacDonald did what past players often do and scored against his former club just before half time.
The second half again saw the Dons start the brighter of the two teams but with twenty minutes left the Bee's got a goal back against the run of play but there was worse to come when a penalty was given against us for handball and from being three nil up we were looking to save the three points. But even worse was to come as we entered injury time Legge scored after a free kick and Brentford had pulled off a remarkable comeback , bright side for me was that Id have been happy with a draw before the game but to lose a three goal advantage does hurt and to get the Auto spots I think you just cant do that and we wont make them because we are just not that good in defence, we also seem to lack concentration at key times against the better teams.
In true foot in mouth fashion Gleeson and Balanta had better games first half making me wish Id just not mentioned them this month and I'm sure if Balanta does go back to QPR his past non performances will be forgotten and everyone will just remember the first half at Brentford !
But Gleeson nearly got himself sent off for not being able to shut up after a foul and booking and Balanta faded as the game went on so perhaps I did call it right.
Tthe team lined up- Martin, Smith, Doumbe, MacKenzie, Lewington, Potter, Gleeson, Ibhere, Bowditch, Balanta; MacDonald the subs were:- McLoughlin, Williams, Flanagan, Powell, O'Shea
The attendance was 5,397 with a disputable 420 Dons fans both teirs looked pretty full according to most there.
And the Forrester who came on as a sub for Brentford was indeed our own academy lad Remy's brother so a dilemma that day for our young academy player.
We have Smith suspended for Monday and I wondered if Flanagan or Williams will start with Doumbe going to right back or whether Karl will keep the Centre backs the same and play someone else at right back, Baldock would be good!
Happy New Year to everyone and hope you all had a great Christmas.