Preview: Milton Keynes Dons

If it was possible for the EFL Trophy to become less important than it already was in Mark Robins’ list of priorities, the addition of an FA Cup replay to the December fixture list pushes it down that one bit further.

With just a day’s rest between Sunday’s FA Cup tie with Ipswich Town and this EFL Trophy match with MK Dons, it essentially guarantees that none of those involved in our last game will start in this one. Against an MK Dons side who are likely to name a strong team due to their need of a win and lack of a game at the weekend, it would be something if our second-string could get a win here.

Expected Line-Up

The biggest area of interest in terms of team selection for this game is the opportunity for players returning from injury to take major steps forward in their recoveries. Jamie Allen – despite sitting out Sunday’s game with a knock – looks set to make his first competitive start for the club, while Jordy Hiwula should also make his first start since returning from injury.

Although this is unlikely to be a game that Mark Robins will set much store by, Gervane Kastaneer seems in need of a big performance to salvage his Coventry City career. Continually ignored over the past month despite a lack of attacking options, a strong showing here will at least put Kastaneer back into Robins’ thinking when it comes to players to introduce from the bench. If not, then it’s conceivable we’ll be looking to move him on in January, barely six months into a three-year deal.

Last Time We Met

The away trip to Milton Keynes back in October was another near-miss as we looked to pick up our first win on the road in the league this season. In a dull game between two sides content with spells of possession without offering too much threat, Jordy Hiwula had the chance to win it from the penalty spot, only for the forward to fluff his lines.

The Opposition

Manager – Russell Martin

Paul Tisdale’s final nine league games in charge saw MK Dons lose eight times and score just two goals, justifying what seemed a harsh decision to sack a manager who had won promotion for the club last season. Russell Martin, stepping up from a playing position, hasn’t enjoyed any ‘new manager bounce’, losing all four games he’s taken charge off, making this game especially important from an MK Dons perspective.

Who To Look Out For?

With MK Dons going without a fixture at the weekend due to their elimination from the FA Cup and in need of a morale-boosting win, I would expect Russell Martin to name his strongest-possible side.

Given the team’s struggles with injuries and goals from their strikers, the aggression and dynamism in central midfield that the likes of Conor McGrandles and Alex Gilbey can offer will be important before they can address their attacking issues in January. The creativity and control that Ben Reeves can offer could be how MK Dons take control of this game, it’s just about finding outlets out wide and in attack for Reeves to supply with his quality in possession.

Scoring his first goal for the club in their last league game, there is hope that, a now fit, Joe Mason could help resolve MK Dons’ goalscoring problems. While the former Cardiff and Wolves striker has rarely been prolific in his career, he has mostly played at Championship level and is an intelligent and technically adept forward who can link play or run in behind.

While MK Dons’ defence has become increasingly error prone as the team’s goalscoring issues have set in, Lee Nicholls in goal remains an agile shot-stopper – as evidenced by an incredible record of four penalty saves out of five this season.

Areas To Exploit

Although there is understandably very little emphasis being placed on this game due to the surrounding fixtures, it is up to those who are selected here to make a case for themselves to be involved on a more regular basis. MK Dons may be selecting what is likely to be their first-choice side, but they are low on confidence and could find themselves under pressure if we can get on the front foot against them.

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