Milton Keynes Dons 1-0 Exeter City Six Things: Tisdale defeats old club

Paul Tisdale – bbc.co.uk

New MK Dons manager Paul Tisdale oversaw a 1-0 victory over former club Exeter City thanks to Kieran Agard’s second half penalty, after Dean Moxey was sent off. Here’s six things from the game.

Cagey first half

It was a tight first half which MK Dons perhaps shaded; they won a few free-kicks around the box, with one on 18 minutes seeing Dean Lewington force a save from Christy Pym. The home side’s brightest spark was Alex Gilbey, through whom almost all their best play went; the well-regarded midfielder picked up pockets of space and, on the half-hour mark, teed up Kieran Agard, who turned on the edge of the box to drag his shot wide. To create more, the Buckinghamshire outfit perhaps needed more men forward in support of Gilbey, plus strikers Robbie Simpson and Agard, which was perhaps difficult with arguably only one other attack-minded player in the eleven; that being wing-back Callum Brittain, who at times linked up nicely with wide centre-back George Williams.

Holmes’ trickery

Lee Holmes hasn’t had the easiest time with injury in previous years but he is a very skilful player for League Two level and looked Exeter’s best attacking player in the first half. The wide man often bamboozled Dean Lewington, who lacked the pace to close down with any confidence and at times needed to be bailed out by the excellent Baily Cargill. Holmes came close with a curled, left-footed effort that flew just wide of the far post but there was little from The Grecians to trouble Lee Nicholls. Most of the Devon side’s approach play comprised of hopeful upfield punts to Jayden Stockley; while the striker’s aerial prowess normally allowed him to make the initial contact with the ball, he was often outnumbered and therefore wasn’t always able to use it to bring others into play with any precision.

More Breakspear drama

Charles Breakspear was the referee who sent off two MK Dons players when they, incredibly, beat Peterborough 1-0 last season. He partially made it up to them here though: Dean Moxey was sent off for a second yellow after handballing George Williams’ 54th-minute cross in the box. Agard though saw his subsequent spot-kick brilliantly saved by Christy Pym, with the striker continuing a performance that saw him look very promising without quite getting his rewards in front of goal. Or at least, that was the case until the 64th minute, when MK had a penalty for another handball, this time by Stockley, who was also shown a red cad for a second yellow, before Breakspeare realized he hadn’t initially booked the striker. This time, Agard made no mistake, going for the middle of the goal to outfox Pym.

Exeter’s spirited finale

Exeter still posed a threat thereon, even with ten-men. MK Dons showed their visitors a lot of respect, allowing the likes of Nicky Law, Jake Taylor and Hiram Boateng to dictate proceedings while Lee Martin made some good runs. The visitors crossed balls that Stockley came close to, with Aaron Martin heading off-target from inside the box before Pierce Sweeney fired over from close-range late on. Ultimately, it wasn’t to be for Matt Taylor’s side.

Grecians unbeaten run ends

Exeter may not have been able to impose their game on their opponents to the extent they might ordinarily like, partly due to the calibre of opposition and partly Moxey’s red card. They did, however, show enough at Stadium:MK to suggest that with Law knitting things together, a strong team spirit and a fanbase right behind the manager, they will control a lot of games this season and can be genuine promotion contenders.

Tisdale improves the defence

As an attacking force, MK Dons have arguably only convinced in two out of a possible ten halves of football; the first half at Oldham and the second at home to Grimsby. The most notable change Paul Tisdale has made however, has been to re-organize a defence that leaked 69 goals last season, with the side conceding just two in their first five. MK might not replicate the liquid football they produced in 2014-15 this term, but the foundations for a promotion push are in place.