Manning disappointed with first half performance in Cambridge defeat

Cambridge United 1-0 MK Dons

Liam Manning admitted the number of changes to his side made it difficult for his side to gel on the opening day of the season but said it cannot be used as an excuse for long.

Only four players from last season took to the field in the 1-0 defeat against Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium, and the disjointed and patchy display, especially in the first half, allowe Harvey Knibbs to net the only goal of the game, resigning Dons to their first opening day defeat since 2016.

Dons appeared much improved in the second half, but chances remained at a premium, with only half-chances for Dan Kemp and Bradley Johnson of note, while Jamie Cumming also kept his powder dry at the other end.

Although the significant change in personnel was immediately obvious, Manning refused to use it as an excuse for the loss.

“How we're asking them to play, and how we're challenging the lads is new for a lot of them,” he said. “But I don't want it to be used as an excuse. It does take time to gel but it's on the players because we have to win these matches. We'll quickly put things right that weren't today.

“Looking back, we started the game well, but after that I was disappointed with the first half in terms of our discipline, doing what we do and what we know what we're capable of.

“It was more on us really, that first half, and then we conceded a poor goal. It was a long ball, a second ball and then straight through the middle of us. We worked hard in pre-season about owning and being hard to beat in the middle of the pitch so to concede like that is immensely disappointing.

“But then we had complete control in the second half, I don't remember Jamie having anything to do. The control and quality was better, but there were still moments of sloppiness which we have to learn quickly from if we are to pick up results in a relentless league. We've got to suck it up and move on next week.”

Josh McEachran limped out in the first half, but Manning said it was too early to know how bad the injury was, adding: “He felt his groin a bit, he was sore and didn't feel like he could carry on so we'll go away and look at it.”