Bury 0-2 MK Dons: Review

  • It was far too easy for Moussa Sow to finish early in proceedings for the first goal of the match. A quickly taken free-kick by MK Dons’ left back Scott Golbourne was played straight back to him and, with no pressure whatsoever on him, he was able to stride forward 10 yards and launch a pass over the top to the Swedish striker. He found himself sprinting in between Tom Aldred and Alex Whitmore and given that both are right-footed, this made their task all the harder to challenge him. His speed did half the job but the first touch was equally crucial. Yes, the defenders were caught too square but you have to admire the finish and the all-round performance up top on his own. He led the line extremely well and gave the Shakers’ shaky looking back three a torrid time all afternoon long. The problem of a lack of a strong left footed individual at centre back will in my opinion keep coming back to haunt Bury in 2017/2018. Joe Skarz can be positioned there but then I would be concerned about his lack of pace being regularly exposed.


  • The stats show that the hosts had well into the twenties in terms of number of shots taken but how many really troubled Lee Nicholls? Michael Smith has thus demonstrated that he has all the tools except making the correct decision when bearing down on the opposition goalkeeper. Chris Maguire, in his deeper role drifting behind the target man, has mainly been restricted to punts from range (particularly from ‘hopeful’ set piece situations). Josh Laurent’s finishing with his feet has been woeful. An excellent ball in the first half from Beckford had him exactly the right area but he still conspired to miss the target.


  • When I saw Ethan Ebanks-Landell had managed to make it back into the XI, I was worried. This is a player who came in for no shortage of criticism in the white shirt during the beyond awful 2012/2013 season when he was just finding his feet as a professional. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength to the extent that I was really surprised that he didn’t find a Championship side to ply his trade for this year. He is exactly what you want when you’re looking to dominate your opponents physically. He got completely across his man (unsurprisingly, Whitmore) for the Buckinghamshire outfit’s second the match from Golbourne’s floated corner. He seems to relish playing against Bury but to focus too much on that aspect would detract from what he brings to the team.


  • Laurent is proving to be a source of frustration for supporters. You can see that he isn’t short of ability but I have my doubts concerning whether he possesses the correct mix for the role he has been asked to play. The Wigan Athletic loanee has the right build but cannot currently back it up on a regular enough basis where it counts in the tackle. The re-emergence of Neil Danns has once more put the spotlight on the centre of midfield as the weakest area from the pool currently available. That isn’t a direct criticism of the much-maligned veteran as it is an indictment of Lee Clark still not finding the solution to Stephen Dawson’s injury more than 10 games on. Rohan Ince, who came on in place of Danns, has failed to live up to his reputation and his eye-catching debut at Rochdale. Perhaps under different management, he might spring to life…


  • Clark’s understandable response to going two down with 25 minutes to play was to throw on Mihai Dobre. In taking off the hapless Whitmore however, it led to a hodge-podge of a defence because of the earlier adjustment after Tom Aldred’s injury. Without Nathan Cameron, there is a lack of real leadership in the backline and it’s not as though there aren’t experienced professionals amongst the dwindling ranks of the fit and present. In a mirror image of last season, the midfield as a unit is too easy to penetrate, which puts too much pressure on the defence. No-one really seems to take responsibility in these situations and when it goes wrong as it invariably does, the finger-pointing begins. The marking system, whether zonal or man-to-man, should when properly implemented, leave little room for this type of questioning of teammates. Once more, you’d have to look to the sidelines to discover the cause.


  • MK Dons’ gameplan, whilst at certain junctures bordering on the ridiculous for time-wasting, worked to great effect. In Robbie Neilson, they have a manager who has his defence well-drilled, specialist defensive midfield shields (plural); also, they don’t rush forward when in possession predictably, exciting attacking players who make good movements both on and off the ball and, looking at the two benches as a whole, had the more varied skillset to call upon. The ex-Hearts boss has taken the blueprint laid down by previous incumbent Karl Robinson and looks to have improved on it; the majority of MK’s talent are the ‘right’ side of their peak years and look to have added more nuance in their shapes and strategies since he took the reins. A slow start they might have had but they can look upwards with a bit of a swagger now…


  • That is in sharp contrast to Bury. Clark cannot dine out on last Tuesday’s result for long. Oxford United had their fair share of openings and whilst I am not looking to chip away at that scoreline, in isolation, it just isn’t sufficient unless it is followed up with another performance of note. There are several players like Dobre who can get the suffering fans on their feet but until the overall picture looks much more coherent, he has to be looking over his shoulder for when the axe will fall, regardless of what chairman Stewart Day says in public. In private, he must know that 20th position with triple the losses in the league over wins is simply unacceptable. EFL Trophy game aside, it is now almost two weeks until the next third tier encounter and Bradford City are not going to make things any easier for the under-fire manager. The prudent time to act would be now but ‘prudence’ and ‘Bury Football Club’ are not exactly common bedfellows…

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