Where We Are
Following a thoroughly drab 0-0 draw with Bradford on Tuesday night we inch further towards securing safety in the league for one more season. One more win should be all that’s required to secure safety but with the form of the teams in the bottom 4 coupled with a tough final run of fixtures, there’ll be no time like the present to secure that vital final 3 points.
A large factor in our toothless display against Bradford in midweek was down to the unexpected absence of Callum Wilson. Whilst Nathan Eccleston tried his hardest, there simply wasn’t the skill or composure in front of goal from the Blackpool loanee to justify the drab, defensive mind-set of the 10 players playing behind him. Today though our top scorer returns and we may be able to nick 3 points again this afternoon be closing the door on our opponents and stealing a goal at the other end.
A worrying mind-set to have as a team that were once so gung-ho and able to carve opponents with ease just a few months ago. However with a need to pick up points by any means necessary, playing dour football is preferable to playing in League Two. At the moment the concern of building a style of play that could get us into the top 6 next season is secondary. Perhaps even that being so defensive will provide a platform to win more games next season, a la Manchester City under Roberto Mancini.
For this afternoon’s fixture the line-up will be bolstered by not only the return of Callum Wilson but also that of John Fleck, Danny Seaborne and Jordan Clarke. This should provide Pressley with more options in every area of the pitch and allow us to pose the opposition some telling questions this afternoon. It seems likely that the back 5 will be restored meaning that it’ll be a pick between Cyrus Christie and Jordan Willis at right wing-back. More interesting will be who is dropped from the midfield with John Fleck’s return, I would guess that Anton Robinson or Conor Thomas are the most likely with Prutton’s experience making him an asset to the side, but really it’s a tough one to call.
Last Time We Met
Our last two games against the team from Milton Keynes have provided the club with some of its two most memorable wins since relegation to the third tier. Back in December 2012 a Coventry side that was missing James Bailey and David McGoldrick produced a fantastic come-back victory to beat MK 3-2 with Franck Moussa’s solo goal the pick of the bunch. Last November, the Sky Blues took what was then a record away following to Buckinghamshire to see their team score three at Stadium:MK once again. Similarly to Coventry’s previous trip to Milton Keynes it took a ‘come-from-behind’ display to record the victory which was eventually settled by two unforgettable free-kicks scored by loanee Chris Maguire on his debut for the club.
How Are They Doing?
In the past two seasons Milton Keynes have struggled to live up to expectations of pushing for at least the play-offs. Last season they fell just short after a late rally, this campaign they’ve been allowed a window of opportunity due to Peterborough’s poor form since December. Whilst Milton Keynes haven’t been in tremendous form, they did manage to defeat Stevenage 3-2 after being 2 goals down and came close to taking a point against Wolves last week. They’re a side that will be desperate for 3 points in order to maintain their play-off push and avoid another summer of budget cut-backs.
Milton Keynes’s best two players this season have left the club. Patrick Bamford remains their top scorer this season despite having left the club in January to join Derby. Centre-back/midfielder Shaun Williams also left in January and his presence as a set-piece taker and as a ball-player in defence has been sorely missed. Strangely though, Milton Keynes have produced their best form since the departure of their star duo.
One player who has stepped up to fill the void left by Bamford and Williams is Ben Reeves who joined last summer from Southampton. The Northern Irish international originally was signed as a left-back but has produced his best football for the club as an attacking midfielder, chipping in with 11 goals. However Reeves has recently picked up an injury that has ruled him out for the rest of the season.
That is not to say that Milton Keynes will be weakened opposition though. Izale McLeod has returned to the first-team since coming back in from the cold after a loan spell at Northampton earlier this season. The former Charlton and Barnet striker will spearhead Milton Keynes’s attack this afternoon. In addition they have two creative midfield players that have enjoyed break-through campaigns this season in Dele Alli and Samir Carruthers. Alli is a product of Milton Keynes’s reputable academy and is regarded as one of the best up-and-coming midfielders in the division. Samir Carruthers is on loan from Aston Vile and is starting to make a name for himself after impressing for a couple of seasons in youth-team football.
Another key player for Milton Keynes this afternoon will be their keeper David Martin. A former Liverpool academy player, his absence for the last meeting between these two sides arguably played a large part in the result. As one of the best keepers in the division, Martin should offer some resistance to Callum Wilson’s impressive recent form.
It’s hard to tell whether our recent steely streak will serve us well now that we’re up against one of the better teams in the division. Whilst we’ve been keeping clean sheets, they’ve both come at the cost of too much of an attacking threat and we’ve still allowed our opponents some glorious opportunities that have fortunately been spurned. Up against a side that are better at the back and more able at taking opportunities that are gifted to them Milton Keynes could really hurt us this afternoon. As we’re not out of the woods just yet it’s important that we take points whenever we can get them just so we have them in the bank before our final games. The result and performance this afternoon will be important in defining just how safely we can secure our League One status this year.
I’m really unsure about this game, however I’m going to predict a 1-1 scoreline that will be better for us than it is for Milton Keynes.