Points Will Be Hard to Come by for MK Dons on Their Trip to Mansfield Town
MK Dons have been on a good run as of late. They are unbeaten in five games and have only conceded one goal in that time. However, they have been made to work hard for their points. The last three wins have all been by a single goal (two 1-0 wins and one 2-1 win) and their upcoming assignment could be the toughest yet. The game against Mansfield sees the league’s two best defences come up against each other, both conceding just nine goals each so far.
Even when the Dons went through their rough patch in September, they still had a strong defence that rarely looked likely to concede. The most they have let in in a single game so far is two, which came against league leaders Lincoln City, with the winner coming deep into injury time.
The defence was the first thing that Paul Tisdale wanted to sort out after his arrival in the summer and he has certainly done this with his change in shape and some new additions. Jordan Moore-Taylor and Baily Cargill are fast becoming fan favourites with their stellar performances, Joe Walsh is growing in confidence by the game playing on the right side of a back three whilst being left-footed and the wingbacks, usually George Williams and Dean Lewington, do more than their fair share of the dirty work at the back.
It’s not likely to be the Dons defence having a hard day, though. The attackers are going to have a tough task on their hands to break through a Stags back line that has only conceded twice this month, both coming in the same game. The Dons attack has seen a slight change of shape in the last couple of games, and this could have been in preparation for this game – perhaps giving the forwards a game or two to get used to the change. But at half-time in midweek against Notts County, Tisdale reverted to the old system used prior to the Northampton game. The Dons went on to score twice after this change.
Whatever way the forwards line up, they need to be prepared for a potentially frustrating afternoon. They’re not going to have many chances so must be clinical in front of goal, something that hasn’t exactly been a trait of Tisdale’s side so far. They wasted numerous opportunities to kill off the games against Northampton and Notts County and went through a period of struggling to score more than once in a game earlier in the season.
This could go to any of the Mansfield back three who have served them so well up to this point. Matt Preston, Krystian Pearce and Ryan Sweeney have been immense at the back for the Stags and have had support from wing-backs Mal Benning and Will Atkinson.
The back three, in particular, will be at the centre of the action when MK Dons come forward and will have to be up to the high standard that they have set this season to keep out the Dons attack.
Rhys Healey’s work rate has seen him grow into another favourite among MK Dons fans. The Cardiff loanee just never stops running and his work was rewarded against Notts County when he fired in an excellent goal to put the Dons ahead.
He has started on the left-hand-side of a front three in the last two games and if Tisdale goes for that formation again, Healey will surely be in the line-up. If the manager instead opts for two up front, the 23-year-old has done more than enough to stake a claim for a starting position ahead of either Chuks Aneke or Kieran Agard.
This is arguably MK Dons’ toughest game of the season so far given the quality of Mansfield’s defence so far. The strikers are going to have a frustrating time and the defence will have to be at the top of its game to avoid any slip-ups at the back.
Winning is a good habit to get into, though, and MK Dons are well and truly in that habit, being the most in-form team in the league. This game will be incredibly tight, but one goal should do the trick and extend the Dons’ good form.
Prediction: Mansfield Town 0-1 MK Dons