There can be few complaints about MK Dons’ season so far. They may have exited all three of their cup competitions in the early rounds, but this season was never about cup runs, it was about getting back into League One. After two successive cup games, the Dons return to league action this weekend as they host Macclesfield Town, who currently sit bottom of the division. The Dons must take this opportunity to really make their mark on the league.
MK Dons Must Make Their Mark Against Macclesfield
Lack of Cup Runs is a Blessing in Disguise
In all competitions, Paul Tisdale’s side have lost their last two games. Their league form, however, sees them remain on just one loss for the season; a 94th-minute goal against Lincoln gave them their only defeat against the league leaders.
Those losses came in the FA Cup and the Checkatrade Trophy respectively. The FA Cup loss saw them go down 3-1 away at league rivals Grimsby, who mounted a second-half comeback having been trailing 1-0 to Kieran Agard’s goal at the break. A strong Dons side then lost an entertaining game 3-2 at home to Brighton U21’s. Aaron Connolly’s hat-trick for the young Seagulls wasn’t quite enough to see them qualify for the knockout stages, though, so Peterborough and Luton advanced.
Conceding six goals in two games is poor on the face of it, especially for a team that have been so strong defensively this season. However, it means that there are no more distractions and the team can firmly focus their attention on their main goal for this season; promotion. Lincoln and Newport, two teams around the Dons in the league, made it into the second round of the FA Cup while Tranmere face a replay against Oxford City after a 3-3 draw. These cup runs and extra games, if they pile up, could see the Dons’ fitness levels be much higher than their opponents’ when it gets to the business end of the season.
While many fans are worried about potentially losing Chuks Aneke in the January transfer window, perhaps they should also be worried about Kieran Agard being snapped up. Agard endured a lot of criticism last season for his poor goal return, but he has improved no end in this campaign. If he scores this weekend, he would become the first MK Dons player to score in four successive games since Izale McLeod back in 2006.
— MK Dons (@MKDonsFC) 15 November 2018
A confident Agard and any form of Chuks Aneke, as well as the ever-in-form Rhys Healey, is a frightening prospect for Macclesfield to have to contend with, especially as they have the league’s second-worst defence. However, Agard will be the centre of attention in this game as he looks to equal McLeod’s record.
Macclesfield have had a torrid start to life back in League Two, which wasn’t made any easier by their FA Cup exit to non-league Maidstone United last weekend.
Their strikers have just three goals between them this season (Harry Smith with two and Scott Wilson with one) which is as many as their top scorer has this season; 38-year-old midfielder and current caretaker manager Danny Whitaker.
Whitaker hasn’t named himself in a matchday squad since he took over on October 8th, so it’s likely that Macclesfield will remain without their top scorer on their visit to Stadium MK.
The onus, then, will be on the defence to put in a valiant performance to keep out a potent attack. The usual back four of Jared Hodgkiss, Keith Lowe, Fiacre Kelleher and David Fitzpatrick are all going to be important to anything that Macclesfield produce over the weekend.
This should be a routine win for MK Dons and it’s the sort of game they will have wanted after their cup losses; a team that have barely left first gear since the start of the season.
The defence should be able to cope with the out-of-form and low-on-confidence Macclesfield forwards, but they will need to remain alert and not act with complacency just to avoid any embarrassment.
Expect a one-sided game with the Dons to emerge victoriously.
Prediction: MK Dons 3-0 Macclesfield Town