Five things we learned from MK Dons’ opening day defeat to Cambridge United
Some of the talking points after MK Dons’ opening day loss
Losing on the opening day of the season is far from the ideal start to the campaign for MK Dons.
In what was a disappointing opening half at the Abbey Stadium, Dons conceded to Harvey Knibbs’ 17th minute strike, and seldom threatened thereafter.
Here are a few of the key points we picked up on after the game.
It’s going to take time
With just four players from last season taking to the pitch from the 16 used by Liam Manning, at times it looked like they weren’t on the same page. While many had hoped Dons would be able to build on the momentum they finished the season with last time out, the amount of change in the squad means patience will be needed over the next few weeks as the side adapts to their new surrounds. They will need to do it quickly though, with the games coming thick and fast.
After two years of playing with three centre-backs, Dons lined up with a back four and advanced wingers in the form of Nathan Holland and Dan Kemp. The 4-2-3-1 formation though struggled to create chances against Cambridge, registering no shots on target and only four all game - one of which hit the bar inside the opening 60 seconds. Manning and his coaches see formations as just areas of the pitch their players fill out of possession, but it gave Dons an unfamiliar feel.
Dean Lewington’s future
A return to the left-back position for the skipper was a throwback to years gone by after several campaigns at centre-back, but it may also be a sign that this is the season he begins to get edged out of the side as a regular feature. Jack Tucker and Warren O’Hora lined up as the recognised centre-backs in the new system, and with Daniel Harvie still to return from injury, it may signal an end to Lewie as the first name on the team-sheet. That said, he did not look out of place back in his old position, and the personnel Dons have could easily see them switch back to a back three.
Matt Smith showing his worth
Barely seen last season after moving from Manchester City in January, Smith was the star man for Dons on Saturday. Having looked impressive in pre-season, Smith does have eyes on a World Cup spot for Wales this winter, and offered an air of creativity, and intelligence in the midfield at Cambridge. The game could have panned out differently too had his strike inside the first minute not thumped the bar. The 22-year-old looks set to play a far bigger role this term than he did last time out.
Away day following
For the last six away matches, MK Dons fans have travelled in great number to register more than 1,000 supporters through the turnstiles for the first time in the club’s history. The fall of fixtures obviously has helped with that, and the promotion push last season also contributed to the supporters excitement, but if a few hundred more become regulars on the motorways up and down the country to support the side, it will make for an even better atmosphere on the road.