Saturday brings Millwall’s first league game on the road, as we travel to recently relegated MK Dons. With both sides picking up wins on the opening weekend, it presents an interesting contest with each club having their own aspirations of promotion to The Championship this season.
Both sides also managed to progress into the next round of the EFL cup, with a rotated MK Dons side enough to see off League Two side Newport County. Perhaps more of a footballing side compared to the likes of Oldham Athletic, I thought I’d bring you up to speed with what we can expect from the opposition this weekend.
Okay, only two games in but much like ourselves MK Dons have had the perfect start to their campaign. It’s never easy bouncing back from relegation especially in this division, but having managed to largely keep their squad intact with a couple of smart acquisitions, they’re certainly pointing in the right direction.
Having kept a clean sheet away to Shrewsbury on the opening day, the hosts will be hoping to build on that clean sheet and carry this into the match on Saturday. Quite an obvious issue was their lack of clean sheets last season and goals against, ultimately contributing to their relegation.
58% possession in their opening game, while also playing away from home. This side like to get on the ball and play from the back where possible. With ball playing midfielders such as Upson and Potter, as well as the attacking trio of Powell, Carruthers and Williams behind their lone forward. All of the above have the ability to keep hold of the ball and lay on constant pressure against their opposition.
85% pass competition to go with the above, whereas against Oldham, Millwall posted up a 70% pass completion in our 3-0 win. Stats don’t always dictate a result with different playing styles for both sides, however we will have to force the opposition into a mistake to get hold of the ball.
Having made a host of changes for their cup tie, you would expect Karl Robinson would revert to a similar line up to last weekend’s victory. During the week the club had eclipsed their record transfer fee, with forward Kieran Agard joining from Championship side Bristol City. However having completed his move on Thursday, I would anticipate Nicky Maynard would continue up front.
Elsewhere there is a familiar face in the middle of the park, with former lion Ed Upson forming part of the MK Dons midfield. Having made an impression in pre-season, Upson put in a standout performance on debut for his new club.
Dean Lewington offers stability in the backline, having been with the club for many years and provides a consistent option at left back. George Baldock, brother of forward Sam Baldock lines up at right full back with both Joe Walsh and Paul Downing in the heart of defence.
As above, a particular thereat to us has to be former player Ed Upson. On all set plays Upson will be sure to pose a threat, therefore as mentioned by Harris after Barnet we need to cut out silly fouls giving the opposition the chance to get the ball forward. Also, lets not forget what Upson was capable of the last time he played against us, scoring the winner with Yeovil three seasons ago…
Elsewhere on the pitch, a player who has had some joy in the past is forward Nicky Maynard. A lively player who looks to get on the last line of the defence, we will need both Craig and Webster alert throughout and prevent the forward exposing us on the break. Injuries have plagued Maynard in recent seasons, however also being an ex West Ham player, I’m sure he will be eager to get one over us come Saturday.
To hit home on the point again, MK Dons will be one of the better footballing sides in the division this season. Looking to dominate the ball and retain possession, we will need to be at our very best defensively to keep shape and prevent the opposition playing through us and carving our chances.
With either Agard or Maynard up top, we will also need to sit deep and prevent the forwards getting in behind our backline on the break. Both known for their raw pace, and ability to score goals at a higher level than League One.
There are two areas where, if done right we will win on Saturday. The first with most importance is the midfield battle, playing 4-4-2 with two central midfielders against a three man midfield will be extremely tough.
However, if Thompson and co. can get a foothold and prevent the opposition midfield from getting on the ball, we will then have our chance of overruling their midfield. Despite being a strength of passing the ball out from the back, it can also be a weakness if we are able to steal the ball high up the field.
One other weakness I can see is the backline available to the home side, the likes of Lewington and Walsh aren’t the fastest defenders in the world, nor physical in defence. Therefore if both Morison and Gregory play to their best it will be another battle further up the field that I would back us to win.