Dons stutter to opening day defeat to Cambridge United

Cambridge United 1-0 MK Dons

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 30th July 2022, 5:07 pm

A disjointed MK Dons suffered opening day defeat for the first time in six years as Harvey Knibbs’ fine solo goal secured the points for Cambridge United on Saturday.

With just four regular players from last season in the side, Liam Manning’s new-look side appeared unsure of themselves in the first 45 minutes, far from the fluid unit they had been last term.

That said, Matt Smith hit the bar inside the first minute of the game, but that was about all they had to write home about at the Abbey Stadium as 16 minutes later, Knibbs netted the only goal of the game to win it for the hosts.

Dons looked much improved in the second half, but struggled to carve themselves any more openings, with half changes falling the way of Dan Kemp and Bradley Johnson, but little to really warrant an equaliser.

After making 13 signings in the summer, Liam Manning handed first starts to five players - including January addition Dan Kemp - while Jamie Cumming and Will Grigg also started, having played for the club previously.

Manning warned ahead of the game not to get too bold with preditions for his side this season, but in the opening 60 seconds they had hit the bar when Matt Smith's effort cannoned off the woodwork, but that was about as good as it got for them in the first half.

Struggling to find their feet in the new system, the heavily changed side did not look on the same page for long periods, and it led to a disjointed performance which barely caused a threat to Dimitar Mitov's goal.

While Dons were an almost entirely new entity though, Cambridge featured a largely familiar side to the one which played last term and that understanding showed with the threats they showed as they went forwards, twice testing Cumming in the air with high crosses.

The keeper though was beaten all ends up on 17 minutes when Harvey Knibbs scored a wonderful solo effort, skipping past the challenge of Josh McEachran as Jack Tucker backed off, allowing the forward to find the bottom corner.

Smith continued to be the key man for the visitors in only his third start for the club since signing in January, but the partnership of Kemp and Lawrence on the right-hand side failed to spark into life as attacks fizzled out without really giving Dimitar Mitov much trouble.

The first half went from bad to worse for Dons when McEachran was forced out nine minutes before the break, replaced by Bradley Johnson.

The visitors looked a renewed side in the early stages of the second half though, at least back on the same page as each other as they sought an equaliser. Half chances came and went though for Dan Kemp and Johnson with Mitov seldom troubled.

The introduction of both Daniel Oyegoke and Louie Barry on the right-flank gave Dons some extra pressure too but they both struggled to unlock the stern Cambridge defence who looked intent on holding firm.

Ultimately it meant first day defeat for MK Dons for the first time since 2016.

Referee: John Busby

Attendance: 6,588 (1,405)

Cambridge United: Mitov, Williams, Digby, Jones, Brophy (Janneh 89), Ironside (Tracey 71), Smith, Dunk (Haunstrup 81), Okedina, May, Knibbs (O'Neil 71)

Subs not used: Mannion, Taylor, Lankester

MK Dons: Cumming, Lewington, Tucker, O'Hora, Tucker, Lawrence (Oyegoke 61), McEachran (Johnson 36), Smith, Grant (Dennis 81), Holland (Burns 81), Kemp (Barry 61), Grigg

Subs not used: Ravizzoli, Robson

Booked: Knibbs, Lawrence, O'Hora, Jones, Oyegoke