The highs and lows of 2020 for MK Dons
It truly has been a year like no other. Aside from the obvious, 2020 has been a transitional year for MK Dons and one which has required a lot of patience from the players, management and of course the supporters.
But it ends on a high note of sorts. Though stadiums flickered into life before falling silence once more, wins in their games over Christmas mean they sit 14th heading into 2021, awaiting Premier Leauge opposition in the FA Cup and a spot in the last 16 of the Papa John's Trophy.
Both on an off the pitch, there have been ups and downs this year - take a look through are the highlights and lowlights we've chosen from 2020.
Best game - Sunderland 1-2 MK Dons (November 14)
The away-day curse was far longer in the tooth - 14 months in fact - than anyone would have wanted by the time Dons headed to the Stadium of Light in Novmeber. Another curse, that of conceding early, was also coming to the fore, so when the Black Cats took the lead after 12 minutes, it felt like all the usual pieces were falling into place. But a Cameron Jerome header just four minutes later, and then a Scott Fraser penalty in the second half had Dons in an unlikely position - winning away. Despite a backs-to-the-wall finale, Dons held on and ended their turmoil on the road. Since, they have won three of their last five away from Stadium MK.
Worst game - Oxford 3-2 MK Dons (October 20)
Defeat to Crewe Alexanda in September has been an outlier for poor performances this season. "The Crewe game" has been mentioned a lot in interviews throughout the season as the worst performance of the campaign so far, but given the changes to the side, given the new process in place and given the fact every team has a terrible showing from time-to-time, losing to Crewe was not the worst thing to have happened to Dons. However, being bottom of the table was much worse. Against Oxford, they typically conceded early, but bounced back quickly. Unable to get their usual game going when Jordan Houghton was smothered in the centre of the park, Oxford took over control in the second half, netting twice to put Dons to bed, though a brilliant stoppage time goal from Ben Gladwin pulled one back to lessen the blow. Sitting bottom of the table though was without doubt the lowest point of the year.
Biggest disappointment - Empty stadium and fans being given only a handful of chances to see their team
Obvious one, really. Football hasn't been the same without thousands supporters voicing their pleasure, displeasure and every emotion in between at games. The few games they could get to only acted as false-hope as the pandemic took greater hold once more, but the impact of stadiums falling quiet once again has only left them feeling worse than before.
Clubs are all suffering financially at this time, and it is a worrying time behind the scenes everywhere, but not hearing fans giving stick to a referee, mocking opposition supporters or roaring as their side takes the lead is the biggest thing missing from the game at the moment.
Best signing - Scott Fraser
Released by Burton Albion, Fraser played a waiting game before deciding where to ply his trade. Offered options in the Championship, he opted for Dons after watching them cruise past Northampton in the Papa John's Trophy at Stadium MK. Since then, it feels like Fraser has had a hand in almost every goal Dons have scored, while netting seven himself and the decisive penalty as Dons avoided the FA Cup first round banana skin of Eastleigh. A vital part of the team, Fraser makes Dons tick in the attacking third and has become an essential player.
It is a tough call between Fraser and soon-to-depart loanee Carlton Morris for this accolade. Morris added a new voice, character and talisman in the dressing room. Perhaps not scoring the goals he would have wanted, his signing in the summer was met with relief by supporters who felt they had not seen enough from the 25-year-old during his brief first loan spell. Attention from the Championship looks set to see him join Barnsley next month.
Biggest shock - Sales of Alex Gilbey and Rhys Healey
Few would have predicted Dons would head into the new season without the Player of the Year or last season's top scorer, but that's the scenario which played out. With money a precious commodity during lockdown, Dons were not the only club desperately needing funds to keep their heads above water. Despite both Andy Cullen and Pete Winkelman claiming they did not need to sell to help keep the club running, the sums offered were too good to turn down, especially in the case of Healey as he left for Toulouse. Subsequent sales of Callum Brittain, just a few weeks after re-signing for the club, and the proposed deal for Sam Nombe to Luton also shocked the fanbase and many questioned whether the season would be another of turmoil.
An honourable mention should go to the dropping of long-term keeper Lee Nicholls for newly signed keeper Andrew Fisher towards the end of October. While Fisher had been on loan from Blackburn from January to March, the keeper's re-signing on a permanent basis wasn't met with much fanfare, with most expecting him to play a back-up role. However, since taking over between the sticks, Fisher has not looked back and limited Nicholls to cup appearances.
Welcome surprise - David Kasumu
Emerging as a promising youngster at the start of last season, the rise and rise of Kasumu has seen him become a key man in a position most felt was set in stone for another - Jordan Houghton. Kasumu's performances since the season got underway in September have seen him establish himself as the battling, fierce tackling, often booked, clever and diminutive midfielder. Playing a similar role to Houghton, Kasumu is far more attack-minded and is quick to get Dons going forward. From a useful squad player in March, Kasumu is now one of the first names on the team sheet, and his absence recently was met with disappointment by the fans who too have noticed his growing impact on the team.
Matthew Sorinola's emergence too has been a great addition to Dons' first team this season.