Defending and the art of set pieces - an MK Dons conundrum

Bradford's Charlie Wyke climbed above the Dons defence to equalise at Valley Parade. Both of the Bantams' goals came from set pieces in the 2-2 draw.
Bradford's Charlie Wyke climbed above the Dons defence to equalise at Valley Parade. Both of the Bantams' goals came from set pieces in the 2-2 draw.

MK Dons may have mastered the art of cutting out defensive errors, but their defending of set pieces is giving boss Robbie Neilson an unnecessary headache.

Of their last eight goals conceded, six have come from set pieces - and Fleetwood had two cleared off the line as Dons failed to deal with their aerial threat.

The lack of a physical presence in Neilson's side has the manager frustrated, with bigger, more powerful players taking full advantage of big balls into the box.

Positively though, the manager was pleased his side have cut out their errors in open play, battening down the hatches with only four from 10 conceded from open play - two of those coming against Championship promotion hopefuls Brighton in the FA Cup.

"We shape up not to lose anything from open play, so it's disappointing to concede from set pieces," said Neilson. "I don't feel we're aggressive enough when the ball goes in.

"The goal on Saturday (against Shrewsbury) was more down to a lack of organisation and a player was out of position. It's something we need to work on. We're not the most physical team, we haven't got the biggest players. Everyone has one or two players with really good delivery, put it on the money, and most teams have three or four boys who are 6ft3 and aggressive in the air.

"In this league, a lot of goals come from set plays. If you can shut that out, then great, but the majority of teams concede from set pieces. We had a look at the stats on it, and 30 per cent of goals last week came from corners.

"I don't expect to go through a season without conceding a set piece - that's the nature of football. It's about set plays, being aggressive and winning headers, and then if you have a team who can play football, you've got a chance."

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