Irish ace stakes his claim to be top Don

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THIS Saturday marks the final home game of the regular League One season for Dons, and a number of players have stood out as potential Player of the Year candidates.

After last season’s lacklustre finish, not many people would have expected Dons to bounce back in the way they have - almost guaranteeing a play-off place and playing an attractive style of football which fans enjoy watching.

So who has stood out most this season? For me, the player who has been most impressive of all this season has been Stephen Gleeson.

The midfielder began the campaign - like most others - under the cloud of last season. Due to injuries he was forced to play much of Dons’ pre-season at right back, even starting the League One season there against Walsall and Carlisle.

When Dietmar Hamann occupied his usual spot in the centre of midfield, the Irishman went about making the full-back roll his own with a series of impressive performances.

Injury and the failed Hamann experiment meant that on his return to the side, Gleeson was put back into his more familiar midfield position, and he hasn’t looked back since.

His tenacity and aggression are things made immediately obvious when watching Gleeson, but his calmness on the ball to diffuse a situation, and his ability to track back are other attributes that fans seem to love him for.

Gleeson’s ability to play in the pink mist - bordering on the red at times - has earned him a few bookings and the odd suspension, but he’s a player who, when he rarely loses possession, will make it his sole purpose to win it back, marking the difference between the player of last season and this.

He has even chipped in with a couple of spectacular goals, earning him my vote for Player of the Year. A close runner-up though is a player who has really burst onto the Dons scene since Christmas time.

Daniel Powell returned from his loan spell at Darlington in the aftermath of Jermaine Easter’s departure, and has made himself a first team regular with his power, pace and excellent dribbling ability - something which the side lacked last season.

He was given a handful of opportunities before this season, but the addition of goals to his game made him the leading scorer at the club, albeit for just a week before Sam Baldock’s return. Powell currently has nine to his name and few would bet against him adding more before the season is up.

Particularly in the early stages of a game, Powell looks the most likely to put Dons in front, working space for himself in penalty areas up and down the country while adding his fair share of assists along the way.

Taking the final place on my podium is returning goalkeeper David Martin. Signed from Liverpool in pre-season, Martin had big gloves to fill replacing fans’ favourite Willy Gueret, but quickly made a decent start to his second spell at the club.

His early season may be remembered for an error in stoppage that allowed Stevenage back into an FA Cup tie at stadium:mk, but Martin’s superb shot-stopping ability has saved Dons from further embarrassment on numerous occasions when suffering their away-day blues in 2010. But all season long, he’s been a reliable rock at the back for the club and deserves come recognition.