Milton Keynes Dons 1-0 Northampton Town Six Things: deserved win for MK

Paul Tisdale –

Milton Keynes Dons moved up to third in League Two thanks to a 1-0 home win over Northampton Town; they could have scored more goals but Kieran Agard’s 44th-minute strike sufficed. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

A game of transition

Although both Paul Tisdale and Keith Curle favoured wing-back systems, all four wing-backs on the pitch – George Williams and Dean Lewington for MK and Billy Waters and David Buchanan for their visitors – lacked the pace naturally associated with the role and thus both teams suffered going forward when central areas were congested. The name of the game, therefore, was to get the ball into forward areas quickly to find gaps and hope the front men can combine effectively. Sam Hoskins and Andy Williams did so for the Cobblers midway through the first half, but the latter’s tight-angled effort was well saved by Lee Nicholls.

Agard’s strike

MK Dons positioned themselves intelligently without the ball, which was why they perhaps shaded the first half. Rhys Healey, Kieran Agard and Chuks Aneke linking up well; the latter hooked wide from Agard’s knock-down following Lewington’s delivery shortly before the half-hour mark. Although Lewington was sometimes caught out defensively, he battled valiantly and his set pieces were accurate; indeed, the stalwart’s 44th-minute corner led to the goal, as Agard converted from close-range.

MK chances

Northampton had looked slightly open on the turnover in the first half but even more so after the break, when they were chasing the game. Tisdale’s side missed a host of chances: Agard forced a good save from David Cornell, who also stopped Williams’ long-distance header before Aneke couldn’t quite scramble home, then Agard saw a goal disallowed for an alleged push on Aaron Pierre before Healey had a one-on-one effort saved. On another day, the hosts could have scored a hatful to make the closing stages a formality but instead, they had to cope with an uncertain finale.

Powell denied

Daniel Powell got an opportunity to punish his old employers for their profligacy, after being played through by Kevin Van Veen within 60 seconds of entering the fray, but he was well-denied by Nicholls. It was only in injury-time though that Keith Curle’s troops built up ahead of steam; Sam Foley’s header landed onto the roof of the net to condemn them to defeat.

Off-colour Cobblers

Although Northampton have had a solid start under Keith Curle, the manager’s methods – in terms of formation and approach – are not quite in line with the personnel he has available. We have seen the likes of Hakeeb Odoffin and Waters playing out of position in wide centre-back and wing-back roles respectively to carry out his three-at-the-back system, while the lack of height was slightly problematic, given that Northampton tended to go long from goal-kicks. For that reason, it would be unfair to conclusively judge Curle’s work until he has the personnel tailored to his methods.

Solid showing from Tisdale’s troops

This shrewd performance, which puts them into the automatic promotion places for the first time after a winless September, epitomized MK Dons at their best; they gave little away and capitalized on opposition mistakes when space opened up. There might be certain games in which space is more congested centrally and they will need to find alternative ideas in wide areas. Because few League Two teams are able stay compact for 90-minutes however, MK’s consistent level of organization could be a massive part in their promotion push.