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Smash and Grab!
· chris_saxon on January 05 2008 22:16:57

M K Dons are still regarded as the pariahs of the Football League by many a fan up and down the country. Despite the passage of time distancing them from their original South London roots, it seems that football fans in general are an unforgiving bunch and everything to do with the Dons is continually analysed in great detail.


Prior to the game, there was much speculation surrounding the probable attendance and just how many or how few travelling supporters would bother to make the journey north. Surely a team seemingly destined to win the league and on course for a record number of points ought to command a big travelling support?


Whilst it seems that the people of Milton Keynes are beginning to warm to their recently acquired imported Football League club and home attendances are rising in their plush new stadium, these new found fans have yet to venture out into the great unknown and sample the delights of an away day.      


Forecasts of less than a couple of hundred however, proved wide of the mark as the teams took to the field, though the actual number was still poor and probably numbered less than five hundred.


A cold uncompromising wind tempered an otherwise pleasant sunny afternoon, perfect for football.


Early on we pressed forward in numbers with Ross and Mills orchestrating every move and dominating the midfield. Despite the possession, chances were few and far between though Holmes could and should have done better with a free header, which flashed wide.


It was noticeable almost from the kick-off that we’d apparently abandoned our short passing game opting instead for a more direct style reminiscent of the Ronnie Moore era. Ball after ball was simply punted into the opposition penalty box, a tactic, which seemed to suit the towering Dons defenders. Ross had a good long-range effort off target just before the break whilst at the other end Warrington was virtually redundant.


They say the best referees are those, which are hardly noticed, unfortunately for the spectators Mr Foster’s performance was arguably the biggest talking point on the terraces at the half time break. He often bewildered both players and fans with his decisions, particularly when attempting to play the advantage, sometimes allowing play to proceed without any apparent advantage and other times failing to play on when there was a clear advantage. Infuriating might best describe his display!  


At half time, the feeling amongst the masses was that one goal would be enough. Kicking towards the favoured Railway End in the second half the smart money was with the Millers. During the interval, I hoped that our manager might have seen the error of his ways and revert to our short passing game.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be the case and very early on it was apparent that our tactics would remain as we pressed forward without any real purpose, still hoofing the ball into the area on every occasion. We were still commanding the possession and they had to defend in numbers. Holmes ought to have finally broken the deadlock when he suddenly found himself devoid of any markers but his point blank header lacked direction and the keeper saved easily.


If possession alone won games, we’d have been out of sight by the time Paul Ince, the M K Dons manager began using his substitutes. Mark Robins joined in and surprisingly replaced Ross, who in my opinion was having a fine game with Taylor and switched from 4-4-2 to 4-4-3 probably in an effort to win all three points. Taylor had effectively won the New Years Day match for us as a substitute so perhaps he could do it again today?


In the past, Robin’s penchant for switching from 4-4-2 to 4-4-3 or visa versa had paid dividends but not this time. Indeed, the various substitutions appeared to benefit our opponents as the midfield opened up and their pacy players had more freedom to roam than at any time in the match. Mills was doing his utmost to orchestrate the play but Harrison and Hudson were struggling to keep the ball, as the Dons became just a little more adventurous.


It was perhaps ironic that the winning goal came from our free kick on the edge of their penalty box. A wayward effort from Brogan led to the ball coming out quickly, Joseph missed his tackle and a quick break ended with Jemal Johnson bursting forward. He beat Ian Sharps and laid the ball off to Wright who slid the ball under Andy Warrington. Such was our luck that the shot was actually scuffed, yes mishit, which deceived our keeper.


It was cruel and hard on the young Millers side that will probably play much worse than this and win. Defeat was hard to take and fisticuffs between Mills and Joseph presumably over apportioning blame for the goal did nothing to quell the sense of injustice amongst players and fans alike.


M K Dons didn’t deserve to win nor did we; they were well organised and effective no more. On this form they will very probably win the league long before the final fixtures but they aren’t pretty to watch and need to learn to be more magnanimous in victory. Sterling’s appalling taunting of the home crowd after the goal was scored might well have signalled a pitch invasion and surely warranted a yellow card.


This was only our fourth league defeat of the season, so all is far from lost. On the three other occasions we’ve tasted defeat, I’ve conceded that a better team deservedly beat us on the day, today was quite different and a draw was perhaps a fairer outcome. 


Perhaps, we can turn the tables on them in a few weeks time when we visit Milton Keynes, when they will have to employ a much more attacking game.


Lincoln City are next up and we must return to winning ways if we are to sustain our promotion drive. For now keep smiling.

 Chris S
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