Midfielder’s absence has been a “big loss” for MK Dons

The former Bolton Wanderers midfielder was another boost for Dons on Tuesday night
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The return of MJ Williams put a smile on the faces of Graham Alexander and Chris Lucketti on Tuesday night.

The 27-year-old summer signing from Bolton Wanderers has been out, barring one brief substitute appearance, for more than a month through an injury he picked up in the third game of the season away at Crawley.

Making his first start since early August on Tuesday night in the EFL Trophy win over Oxford United, Williams was limited to just 45 minutes as Dons managed his comeback, despite the midfielder’s eagerness to continue.

“You can see the class he has,” said assistant head coach Lucketti as he piled praise on Williams. “He's a proven performer, and we're a better side because of what he brings to the team - composure and presence, and you can see the number of second balls he wins to start attacks in the centre of the park.

“He's been a big loss for us and it's great to see him back.”

Head coach Graham Alexander too was pleased to see Williams return to the pitch, but said his comeback does not automatically mean he will step back into his starting role immediately.

He said: “Dawson Devoy has stepped into that position while MJ has been out and we’ve been winning games with him in there as well.

“We targeted MJ and spent a lot of time trying to get him here, and he showed in the first few games how valuable he is to us. But he’s not the only one, there are several important players to us.

“He has been there before, he’s won promotion with Bolton and came here with the intention of doing it again with us.

“He’s been a miss in the character and personality side of it, and the confidence he gives to the players around him. MJ is one of several who gives us that confidence.”

Alexander added: “We knew we'd not put him through the 90 minutes because he's been out for a long while. We did speak about a certain number of minutes but he said he was feeling great, so we said we'd see how it goes.

“There is still a potential injury risk because of his lack of minutes recently.

“He was desperate to continue at half-time, but it was great to put a tick next to his name at the end of the night.”