The key dates which defined MK Dons’ 2021/22 season

Looking back at the ups and downs of the 2021/22 season

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 6:00 am

There were ups and downs throughout the season for MK Dons

In a season where more has gone right than has gone wrong for MK Dons, we look back at some of the key dates which have shaped the campaign for Liam Manning's men.

August 13, 2021: A new Man takes charge

The new kid on the block - Liam Manning looks over his new dugout at Stadium MK

Losing the manager and the entire backroom staff on the eve of a new season could have spelt disaster for Dons before they even kicked a ball in the league. Russell Martin's accrimonious departure for Swansea City mere hours after his side's lacklustre 5-0 thumping at the hands of Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup saw Dons hunt reach the Belgian second division for Liam Manning. Despite tasting defeat less than 24 hours into his tenure, having not even held a training session yet, Manning went on to claim Manager of the Month in his first full month in charge, leading Dons up the table and into the fight for the automatic promotion spots.

September 18, 2021: Gillingham 1-4 MK Dons

Priestfield has seldom been a happy hunting ground for Dons, but Manning was not interested in history heading to Kent, even though things appeared to be following the usual pattern when the visitors went behind after 20 minutes. In the subsequent 70 though, Dons emphatically signalled the start of their new era, crushing Gillingham in something of a marker for the rest of the season.

October 30, 2021: Crewe Alexandra 1-4 MK Dons

MK Dons celebrate Peter Kioso’s goal in the thumping win away at Crewe

October was not a good month for Dons. The curse of the Manager of the Month award reared it's ugly head and Dons lost four out of six heading to Gresty Road. But nonplussed by their own lack of form, Dons were ruthless in front of goal, riding out Crewe's early second-half pressure to bounce back into form. They would go another six months before losing back-to-back games again.

January 2022: The transfer window

Jamie Cumming was a huge signing for MK Dons on loan from Chelsea in the January window. The keeper formed a key part of the defence in the second half of the season

Before the window even opened, Dons were dealt with a blow in losing striker Max Watters back to parent club Cardiff City. In total, nine would depart Stadium MK as the squad began to take a different shape. Making money from the sales of Matt O'Riley and Andrew Fisher, Liam Manning and Liam Sweeting set about rebuilding and recruiting, bringing in key talents on loan like Jamie Cumming and Conor Coventry, while keeping hold of the likes of Scott Twine and Harry Darling would also prove pivotal. After losing to Doncaster Rovers midway through the month, Dons would not lose again until the end of April.

March 5, 2022: Rotherham 1-2 MK Dons

Dons had played themselves into contention for the play-off spots with their form through February but the task of beating runaway leaders Rotherham in their own back yard threatened to separate the wheat from the chaff. When Daniel Harvie was sent off after giving away a penalty after just 24 minutes. A second-half turnaround though would not only see Dons force themselves into the automatic promotion conversation, but sparked a wobble in the Millers which would take the race right to the final day.

May 5, 2022: Wycombe 2-0 MK Dons

Scott Twine and Daniel Harvie leaving the field at Adams Park after the 2-0 defeat to Wycombe in the play-offs

While their campaign picked up after a 5-0 thumping at the start of the season, a 5-0 win of their own at the end would signal the beginning of the end of it too. Heading into the play-offs after crushing Plymouth’s ambitions of a top-six finish ironically let in Wycombe on the final day, Dons were dragged into a dog fight against Gareth Ainsworth’s side, and it played right into their hand. Trailing to Ryan Tafazolli’s first-half header, Josh McEachran was sent off before Sam Vokes’ goal seven minutes from the end made sure life was going to be made very tough in the return leg. Though Dons won it 1-0 back at Stadium MK in a game they dominated, the damage was done at Adams Park as Wycombe progressed to the final, leaving Dons to wonder what might have been.