It is time for Powell to prove a point
Frustrating, infuriating, clumsy, Marmite, enigmatic, impossible to predict - it could be a big season for Daniel Powell.
The 25-year-old has been the perennial nearly-man at Stadium MK since he made his debut back in 2008. Eternally frustrating and brilliant in equal measure at times, Powell has a habit of finding himself in the right place at the right time, scoring goals that turn out to be more vital than most people imagine.
Last season, he only found the back of the net on two occasions, but a winner against Bolton and a dramatic injury time equaliser against Bristol City ultimately won Dons four points. And his goal in Saturday against Shrewsbury has already seen him earn his side another three.
For countless years, Karl Robinson has watched Powell with awe, incredulity, anger and frustration all in equal measure, but has given his man countless opportunities to prove himself. ‘How can you account for his unpredictably?’ is almost a stock phrase from the manager when talking about the winger - who finds himself third on Dons’ all-time leading scorers list - but his unpredictably could ultimately be his biggest hindrance too.
Robinson held Powell accountable on a number of occasions last season, with the winger being left out in the cold for several games as punishment for what the manager felt was a lack of effort or a serious mistake costing them goals. Powell though seems to respond best when being fired a rocket, and the criticism he took on the chin and knuckled down, earning his spot back again.
It’s no secret that Dons are desperately short on numbers. With injury ruling out Dean Bowditch, Ben Reeves and Chuks Aneke, the midfield - like the rest of the squad - is threadbare and down to bare bones. For Powell, it’s a vital time. Robinson has made it common knowledge he wants two more wingers to add to his dwindling numbers, but his philosophy isn’t just to add quantity, but quality. Robinson wants players to come in and vie for a place in the first team. Given the uncertain nature of which Daniel Powell will turn up on the day, he will be the first in the firing line if and when a replacement is drafted in.
With his contract up at the end of the year, Powell has to rediscover his mojo again. It was hard for everyone in the Championship last season, but Powell was never considered a definite starter in the second tier and though his goals were vital, he hadn’t scored since October 2015 going into the game at Shrewsbury.
But from early on at Greenhaus Meadow, it looked as though the unpredictable yet unplayable Powell was back. A brilliant moment of skill saw him effortlessly turn two Shrewsbury defenders before playing a dangerous ball across the face of the six yard box which none of his team-mates seemed alert to.
Then a moment of madness from Shrews keeper Jayson Leutwiler in No Man’s Land allowed Powell to pinch the ball from his toe, leaving Dean Lewington to fire just over the gaping net.
And his goal, a right-footed rocket from just inside the box, was the icing on the cake.
But despite his strike securing all three points, he will have to do more to ensure he remains in Karl Robinson’s game plans, both this season and beyond. He will have to harness his unpredictably and use it to bamboozle defenders rather than his own team-mates, strike fear into opposing fans rather than his own and chip in with more than his fair share.
What Dons need is the Daniel Powell who pulled on the shirt at Shrewsbury.