Question of the WeekShould Stefan Payne be allowed to play again?
Drawing in the Corporate Crowd
By: Andrew Doherty
SO far the season has been a mixed bag - not wholly bad and not good. It's early days and we should be encouraged by our results against Macclesfield and Lincoln, and the fact the players recovered well from the Forest Green fiasco. In the meantime Mr Jolley has made more signings.
Even with cautious optimism in the air, I struggled to see us getting anything out of tonight's game at the home of one of the division's favourites, Milton Keynes Dons.
Unlike some I have no issues with The Franchise as MK Dons are known. This was my first experience of the palatial stadium with its padded seats. What it lacked was atmosphere. This was hardly surprising in view of the fact that there were 6,800 spectators in this 30,000 stadium. But unlike Coventry last year, it seemed that no-one told the home supporters to make any sound, and if it hadn't been for the 610 travelling Town fans, it would have been like a permanent minute's silence. The pitch was miles away and the screens were devoted to advertising, and trivia like goal scorers or substitutions were just by products of this Event that we were sucked into.
Even with suspensions and injuries, Town managed to put out a strong line-up tonight was: McKeown - Davis, Whitmore, Fawemo, Dixon - Clifton, Welsh, Hessenthaler - Woolford, Hooper - Cook.
Town played the ball around well in the first half. The movement was good, and the men in red with indecipherable black numbers buzzed around like ants as they showed greater energy and willingness than Milton Keynes. Hessenthaler almost scored early on with a long shot, which the goalkeeper did well to save but Town continued to press and could have scored again when Cook chose to cut inside instead of running on to a through pass on the right. With Hooper and Clifton being consigned to the wings, Woolford was given room to create in the inside left position, and with the defence keeping out rare MK attacks, and Welsh acting as the midfield engine room, Town were well in control. On 35 minutes, Town broke through on the right. Woolford's shot was parried by the MK goalkeeper and Cook was on hand to make it 1 - 0 to Town. The lead was thoroughly deserved. McKeown had to make a save on 41 minutes but otherwise MK were reduced to long range shots. Town were by far the more creative side.
MK kicked off for the second half and immediately attacked. The ball was worked up the right for Williams to cross to the advancing Simpson who headed in from the back post. Town had not touched the ball and were caught napping. MK took heart and set about a wave of attacks. Only desperate clearances and blocks kept MK out. Town worked their way back into the game, and Hessenthaler dragged a shot wide, but MK dominated play. Town made a couple of substitutions to freshen things up, and the game became more physical as Town hung on. Whitmore was booked for a foul, and on 82 minutes Dixon was sent for a tackle on a 50-50 ball inside the Town half. From a distance it looked a harsh decision. MK's Cisse missed with a header from a corner, and McKeown made a good save. On 88 minutes there was the mother of all goalmouth scrambles, in which MK must have had five shots as they tried to squeeze the ball through all the Town bodies. Town hung on. Four minutes were added - this was announced as there was a sponsor - but Town remained resolute. So it ended: Mk Dons 1, Town 1.
This was a good performance from Town. The performance in the first half was excellent, as was the resilience in the second. Town fought their way out of trouble against an MK onslaught, aided by wise and timely substitutions. The professionalism I hadn't seen in the first game of the season was here tonight. MK Dons weren't as great as some had claimed, and relied on the skill of Cisse and the dead ball play of Lewington, who seems to have around longer than Milton Keynes itself. But if MK Dons are the benchmark, Town are in good shape. We had reason to be satisfied as we slid away from the bright lights of this corporate empire.
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