Billed by the English media as a ‘grudge’ match, Saturday’s midday clash between MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon came and went in the blink of an eye, in what was a largely uneventful contest at Stadium: MK.
As has been his usual preference for much of his rein, Wimbledon manager Wally Downes set his side up in a 5-3-2 formation, with a back five of Joe McDonnell (in for regular number one Nathan Trott, who was away on international duty), Luke O’Neil, Paul Kalambayi, Terrell Thomas, Ryan Delaney (a new signing on loan from Rochdale) and Nesta Guinness-Walker.
In the midfield three were Callum Reilly, Scott Wagstaff and captain Will Nightingale in the holding midfield role, whilst in attack Joe Pigott partnered Kwesi Appiah.
Lastly, on the bench for the Dons was Nik Tzanev, Adam Roscrow, Jack Rudoni, another new loan signing in Marcus Forss from Brentford, Michael Folivi, Max Sanders (a recent loan signing from Brighton) and Paul Osew.
Despite a late flurry in which Wimbledon pulled a goal back, their sub-par efforts counted for nothing. Here’s THREE things we learned from last weekend’s game …
Nightingale should not play in midfield
What has been made abundantly clear both this season and last season is that without Nightingale’s leadership in the Wimbledon backline, the back three is significantly weaker from an organisational point of view.
As was seen in the build up to Milton Keynes first goal, in which Thomas was pulled out of position, thus leaving space in behind for MK striker Sam Nombe to get a run on Paul Kalambayi, who had no chance of covering the space that was left by Thomas’s poor decision making.
Secondly, Nightingale’s lack of experience and suitability for the holding midfield role was shown by his lack of urgency to engage MK’s other forward Rhys Healey on the edge of the box, leading to the forward simply by-passing Nightingale’s non existent challenge before finishing clinically into the bottom corner.
Lack of urgency
After going two goals down so early in the first half, you would have thought that it would spark Wimbledon into life, unfortunately this was not the case until the last 10 minutes of the game as the Dons found a potential way back into the tie through substitute Marcus Forss’s brilliant header, it was only then that there was any signs of urgency and belief that they could come away from the game with something.
This is something that needs to be addressed as soon as possible in order for Wimbledon to start picking up some much needed points.
Inconsistent line-ups are proving to be costly
Lastly, it is clear that a lack of consistent starting 11 this season is having a negative effect on Wimbledon’s performances in games, with the Dons yet to have named an unchanged team this season, be it through injuries or international call ups.
This lack of consistency is preventing players from building on-field relationships with each other in key positions of the team, i.e. between the defence and goalkeeper.