What we've learned about MK Dons after Sunderland defeat
It feels like it has been all action, all of the time since the new year came to pass for MK Dons.
With five games in 18 days, Dons have this weekend off thanks to Portsmouth's inclusion in the FA Cup. But after consecutive defeats and one point out of a possible nine, there is plenty for Russell Martin to mull over in the next few days.
Goals drying up?
Goals had not been a problem for Dons until recently. Ending last year, and starting this one with six goals in two games, Dons have found the net just once in four games. Joe Mason has not scored since Boxing Day and Rhys Healey since New Year's Day, while Carlton Morris scored on his debut against Coventry but not in the two games since. Though you would be hard-pushed to take anything serious from the defeat at Newport County given the number of changes Martin made to his side for the Leasing.com Trophy, the game at Burton saw Dons do everything but score as they went down 1-0, while the defeat to Sunderland needed a spectacular effort from Lynden Gooch to separate the sides. While not exactly a 'panic button' situation as yet, having three strikers on scoring form will, obviously, ease Dons' relegation fears.
Shipping cheap goals
Russell Martin hates 'rubbish' goals. Set pieces, counter-attacks, giving away possession cheaply - Dons have been guilty of all of these in the last few weeks. Two clean sheets in nine tells the story, but Dons are still finding their feet at the back as they look to pass out from the back. Joe Walsh and George Williams are looking pretty solid as a centre back pairing, but Jordan Moore-Taylor and Baily Cargill are waiting in the wings should either let their game slip.
Getting the best from Brittain
Emerging from his shell once again, Callum Brittain has been building in confidence and understanding since Martin took over. Playing as a more orthodox right-back for the time being, Brittain has been gradually bringing back the flash and trickery which saw him come to life when Dons were in their pomp at the start of the season. The defender was excellent against Burton and Sunderland and looks a strong attacking threat when he roams forward. If he can find consistency in his performances, he will be one of Dons' biggest assets.
Keeping Gilbey fit
Two big knocks against Coventry saw him limp off, and he had to pull out during the warm-up against Sunderland on Saturday - keeping December's Player of the Month fit will be key for Dons. The driving force in midfield in recent weeks as he has been released from the more defensive side of the game, Gilbey was amongst the goals last month as Dons dragged themselves out of the relegation zone. Hopefully, the break will do him some good and give him time to recouperate, having played a lot of football since the ankle injury which saw him miss three months last season.
Getting the best out of the new signings
Three new faces have joined the ranks of Russell Martin's squad this month, and they have been dropped straight into the firing line. Both Louis Thompson and Ben Gladwin have been severely hampered by injury in the last few years and will need time to get their match-fitness and sharpness back. Carlton Morris hit the ground running with a goal on his debut, and has added a new dimension up front as a good hold-up man. Thompson looks like a nuisance in the midfield, while Gladwin will add height and, from what we saw at Burton, a pinpoint diagonal ball to get the ball up the field quickly.