Plenty of food for thought for Manning after first game in charge of MK Dons

MK Dons 1-2 Sunderland

Saturday, 14th August 2021, 6:47 pm

Liam Manning

The dream start wasn’t quite to be for Liam Manning as he took charge of his first game for MK Dons, but he predicts big things despite losing 2-1 to Sunderland on Saturday.

The Dons head coach hasn’t even taken a training session yet, but took control of the game at Stadium MK as his side couldn’t overturn a 2-0 deficit, missing out by a single goal in the end.

After falling behind just before half time to Ross Stewart’s close-range goal, Elliot Embleton’s second just seven minutes after the restart threatened to put a dampener on the affair, before Troy Parrott netted four minutes later to give Dons a lifeline.

Andrew Fisher saved a penalty late on to deny Sunderland a more comfortable finish, but Dons were unable to find an equaliser.

For Manning, it was a disappointing start to his time at Stadium MK, but he said on the grand scheme, he was pleased with what he saw from his new team.

He said: “When you look at the last two weeks, it has been a really challenging time for the players. But what a terrific group we have, in the way they've stuck together and got through it.

“Taking things into perspective, taking a step and looking at the bigger picture, I'm really excited by some of the things I saw today. For the second half in particular, we had really good control of the game.

“We played in their half, we looked dangerous, we had more chances. But in football, what you can't do is switch off. So far though, the players have no idea what I'm looking for yet, so that's difficult for them. I'm disappointed because you don't want to lose, but there are lots of positives to take.”

The first half was a pretty balanced affair, only separated by Stewart’s goal three minutes from the interval, coming after Fisher spilled a deflected cross into his path. The second though threatened to be a one-sided affair when Sunderland came out swinging, adding to their lead not long after the restart.

But after Parrott got Dons back within one, it was fairly one-way traffic for the home side who just could not find the breakthrough.

“On quality of chances, it was down to us,” Manning continued. “In the first half, we had a good 10 minute period where we created a few more chances, and we spoke about that at half time - playing with a bit more tempo and intensity, which you saw in the second half.

“At times we suffocated them and they couldn't get out. Obviously Sunderland are a big club with a lot of experience, and when you're not playing as well, that's what experienced players can get you so there is a lot for us to do, but I'm excited.”