A complete first-half performance from Dons puts a smile on Manning’s face

MK Dons 4-1 Cambridge United

Saturday, 13th November 2021, 6:29 pm

MK Dons celebrate Scott Twine’s opening goal in the 4-1 win over Cambridge United

It was as good a first-half showing from MK Dons as Liam Manning has seen as his side effectively wrapped up the game against Cambridge United by the 36th minute at Stadium MK on Saturday.

Scott Twine bagged a brace either side of a Max Watters goal to put Dons in total control over the U’s, heading in 3-0 up and cruising at the break. Watters added a second in the second half - his fifth in four games - before Sam Smith put home a consolation for the visitors.

Though 3-0 was plenty to put the game beyond reach, it could have been more with Twine and Watters missing follow-up chances, as did Matt O’Riley.

For Manning, the first 45 minutes was as good as he has seen his side since taking over in August.

“It’s up there,” he said. “When you talk about progress and getting better, that first half was as good as I’ve seen it.

“The biggest thing for me was how we stopped their counter-attacks and defended them. We spoke about how many goals we’d conceded, so that was pleasing.

“We were really good in the first half for numerous reasons. We controlled the game, it’s something we worked on all week, and the guys transferred it onto the pitch. It’s a huge credit to the guys for that. There were some really enjoyable moments, the quality in front of goals was great to watch at times.”

Despite their dominance of the scoreline, Manning admitted there was never a minute of the 111 played - a lengthy period of stoppage time followed former Dons defender George Williams’ clash of heads with Aden Baldwin - where he felt comfortable to sit back and relax.

“No, to be honest!” he said if he felt comfortable. “Even with five minutes to go we’re still so involved, and you have to be. It’s enjoyable to watch, but with our habits and standards, creating a culture where we are always the best we can, you can never step off. And you can see that right the way through, with the guys coming off disappointed they have conceded.

“I’d have preferred to have more control in that second half but when you look at it, it’s another new experience for the group. It’s the first time we’ve been 3-0 up, and we’ll try and take lessons from this to manage it better in the future.”