story so far
It’s been a big turnaround, in a bad way, for the MK Dons. Last season, they were one of the best third-tier teams under highly-skilled young manager, and former Town product, Liam Manning, and failed to reach promotion.
They then lost a host of stars in the summer, including big names like Scott Twine and Harry Darling, and have yet to really bounce back.
Manning paid for it with his work in December, with the Dons sitting 23rd in the table after a dismal start to the season.
Leeds United first-team manager Mark Jackson took over on December 23, but there have been no Christmas miracles since.
The Dons are now 22, two points below safety, and in other terrible shape.
They have collected just four points from their last 18 and conceded five goals in their last two games – a 5-0 thrashing at Bolton, followed by a 5-2 thrashing at leader Sheffield Wednesday last weekend.
They led twice against the Owls though, so they have shown they can compete – and score – against the best teams, at least in patches.
Jackson brought in five new players in January: young striker Max Dean from Leeds, striker Jonathan Leko from Birmingham, Brentford midfielder Paris Maghoma (loan), winger Sully Kaikai from Wycombe and Aberdeen defender Anthony Stewart (loan). .
It also moved the Dons away from the polished technical football being played under Manning to a style based on power and pace.
Time will tell if the additions and changes in focus will save them.
jackson in town
The Dons manager knew his team would be going into a three-game skid that has seen them take on some of the best teams in the league.
And, having lost heavily to Bolton and on Wednesday, he is determined that his charges will not come out of that run with nothing.
“We are fully aware of the challenge that lies ahead,” Jackson said. “We knew this meeting period would be challenging, but we still thought we could come up with something.
“So far that hasn’t been the case, but now it’s about getting results and we need that soon.”
“To do that, we need to defend better, both collectively and individually, and it’s not just the back four, it’s all the players as a whole.
“We need to act on that quickly and we’ve made that clear, and the players know that as a team.
“We’re going to try to get into the game and make sure we’re up to the task when it comes to our defensive duties and responsibilities.
“We have to know what we are doing when we face Ipswich, because they are an extremely good team.”
One of the big problems for MK this season has been their woeful form at home, which is the worst in the league.
They have only won twice at home, drawing four and losing ten, and have scored just 11 goals against their hometown faithful.
Of course, this weekend could well feel more like an away game for them, with Town fans likely dwarfing local support at the stadium.
Town will not face former loanee Louie Barry tomorrow – the Aston Villa talent, who did not last long at Portman Road last season, has moved on again after spending the first half of the campaign at Stadium MK.
He played 32 games for the Dons, scoring once, before taking another loan to League Two Salford last month.
However, they will likely face an East Anglian derby villain at some point, midfielder Bradley Johnson.
Now 35 years old, Johnson has played 36 games and scored five goals for MK this season.
some to see
Forward Mo Eisa is the top scorer for the Dons this season with eight goals in 23 games.
Forward Will Grigg – Remember when he was on fire? – has bagged seven in 34, followed by the aforementioned Johnson.
Midfielder Dawson Devoy is the main provider, with seven assists, followed by Conor Grant (not the former Town borrower) with four.
Josh McEachran, meanwhile, is the leading MK creator, with 34 chances.
the tone is not perfect
The state of the pitch at Stadium MK has sparked a lot of anger this season, and things came to a head last week when none other than England women’s team boss Sarina Wiegman described the playing surface as ‘ unacceptable’ after the Lionesses devoured South Korea there.
The Dons have acknowledged the problem, saying the pitch has far exceeded its original intended lifespan of ten years.
Head of state Andy Lee said: “The grass cover is low, but that’s pretty normal for a shady stadium like this.
“The pitch is old, it was first laid in 2006/07 and like everything it deteriorates over time and we are well beyond the expected life of the pitch.
“In recent years, we have seen the pitch get much worse at this time of year.
“When we get to December and January, we lose coverage because we don’t have light or temperatures to encourage growth. At this time of year, it’s just dormant.”
Possible starting eleven (4-2-3-1): come; Watson, Tucker, Jules, Harvie; McEachran, Maghoma; Leko, Devoy, Kaikai; Eisa