Milton Keynes Dons 1-0 Mansfield Town Player Ratings: Martin commands

Paul Tisdale – bbc.co.uk

Milton Keynes Dons returned to League One at the first attempt thanks to a win over direct promotion rivals Mansfield Town, as David Wheeler’s second-minute strike sufficed in the only goal of the contest. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Milton Keynes Dons

Lee Nicholls – although Nicholls kept a clean sheet, he did flap at two of the shots he saved and one wonders if MK were not so well organised in general player, whether he would have struggled more. Depending on what the club’s ambitions are in League One next season, the goalkeeper position could be an area to look at. 5

George Williams – the ex-Barnsley man’s return from injury has been a plus for MK, due to his intelligent football brain; he made some excellent interceptions here and was key to a strong defensive display. 9
Russ Martin – the former Norwich stalwart brought experience to the back-line, having felt the pressure of promotion races previously in his career himself. Because he does not have the pace to play in a wide centre-back role, it suited him with the support of a defender either side of him – that position allowed his leadership qualities to come to the fore. 9
Joe Walsh – the centre-back had an arm injury, perhaps not quite as severe a category as it could have been, allowing him to start here – and what a performance. Walsh took few chances when put under pressure, a mentality suitable for the occasion. 9

Callum Brittain – the academy graduate’s mentality has been called into question this year but it appeared to suit him more playing as a wing-back and we saw more of the energy and intensity he displayed last season. Put in a strong shift. 7
Conor McGrandles – the selfless midfielder held his position well and made some well-timed interceptions; the quality of his passing left something to be desired now and again, but for an 88-minute defensive job the attributes he brought were perfect. 8
Jordan Houghton – the former Chelsea graduate was disciplined for long spells and did some solid tidying up in his defensive third. Houghton has shown admirable adaptability this season, having played a fair few games at centre-back over April. 8
Dean Lewington – it was fitting that the MK legend produced what must be one of his best performances of the season on such a crucial day. He might not be particularly quick at 34, but remains a willing competitor and in the first half, he posed a huge threat from set pieces – producing the second-minute corner that led to Wheeler’s opener, prior to several others that also asked questions. Tired slightly towards the end though and another left wing-back will be required in the summer, as ‘Lewie’ is unlikely to be able to start 46 games in League One. 8

David Wheeler – the wide forward offered an aerial outlet due to his good spring, as well as making positive runs into goalscoring positions, including the second-minute opener from Lewington’s corner. Posed the occasional threat on the break in the second half prior to being withdrawn in favour of the security of an extra midfielder. 7
Kieran Agard – MK 20-goal top scorer has spent long spells of some games this season on the periphery, but here he showed a willingness to get involved in general play by pressing fiercely from the outset. Not quite at his sharpest on the counter-attack – if he had been, he could have scored a brace. 7
Chuks Aneke – the enigmatic forward has been by far MK’s most inventive player this season and showed why here, posing a threat on the counter-attack with his creativity between the lines. 7

Ryan Watson (on 69) – the technical midfield, used to a lot of Under-23s football early in his career, has sometimes been criticized for being a tad lightweight for League Two, but here he got stuck in and helped MK in the defensive phase. 6
Robbie Simpson (on 90) – the target man had the strength to hold the ball up for a few seconds, give midfielders a chance to get further up the pitch and thus defenders could have a breather. Really played his part, albeit in a short period. 6

Mansfield Town

Conrad Logan – the seasoned former Spotland-stationed stopper had to be brave after letting in the opener, denying an opponent one-on-one within the first five minutes and making himself big again after the break. 6

Matt Preston – the young centre-back had the mobility to potentially overlap MacDonald, but his early injury following a collision with Nicholls disrupted the team’s plans. 5
Krystian Pearce – Mansfield have not been short of cash to splash in the last two seasons, so it is a credit to Pearce that he has remained an integral part of Steve Evans and then David Flitcroft’s plans throughout. The 28-year-old has recently been rewarded for his fine form with a belated debut for Barbados, he showed the physicality and aggression required to get his team going in an urgent second half. 7
Ryan Sweeney – played one or two decent diagonals towards Rose in the second period and generally did not do too much wrong, at least in open play. Possibly struggles with the physical side of things from set pieces. 6

Alex MacDonald – the auxiliary wing-back always wanted to drive inside which, without a wide centre-back overlapping him, left Mansfield short of width. When Grant came on, MacDonald was handled the licence to power forward from central midfielders and the former Burton man looked more at home with that remit. 6
Willem Tomlinson – without a target man on the pitch while Tomlinson was on, Mansfield needed to keep the ball on the deck with some composure. The Blackburn academy graduate though appeared too panicked, both in terms of how he raced back defensively in a team that already had three centre-backs – and was too keen to get the ball forward when that type of pass was not on. Struggled to handle the pressure of the situation and was understandably taken off in the first half. 4
Jacob Mellis – the technician, who hit an excellent strike in the reverse fixture, occupied an advanced role due to Jorge Grant’s omission from the starting XI. Showed some creative qualities, although he looks better when switching play in front of the opposing midfield, rather than in the gaps in behind. 6
Neal Bishop – the experienced ball-winner has this season showed remarkable energy at 37, but this was a mixed individual performance. In the first half, he was stationed too deep to influence Mansfield press as he can do well, although he got further forward after the break. 5
Mal Benning – the attacking left-back can be an asset at League Two level, but this was not his day. The former Walsall man’s crossing was surprisingly inaccurate, perhaps not helped by the slow movement of the ball when it came out to him. Still, when Benning came off, Mansfield left themselves without any sort of potential width. 5

Tyler Walker – the forward has had an excellent season with 22 league goals, but the one thing the Nottingham Forest loanee is not is a target man. Because the midfield was so far off in the first half, Walker was tasked with handling the types of balls that should not necessarily be his to handle. Suffered from the team’s collective lack of width, meaning the gaps for him to get little runs on defenders through combination play did not really open up. 4
CJ Hamilton – like Walker, Hamilton did not get the right kind of service for much of the first half as the possibility of counter-attacking was ruled out from the second minute. After the break, CJ moved to a wide left role but this did not maximize his pace because he is right-footed and therefore likely to cut inside into areas that were crowded. Might have done more damage on the right. 4

Ben Turner (on 19) – on one occasion in the second half, the veteran raced back to guard against a counter-attack and gave himself cramp, such was his determination. Posed a threat in the opposing box towards the end – but not particularly comfortable on the ball. 6
Danny Rose (on 37) – although Rose is not particularly tall, he has a good spring and is a willing runner, so his work was crucial to getting Mansfield up the pitch. With no width, the visitors reliant on diagonal balls to their selfless front-man, who came close twice in the final five minutes and could have won a penalty in that period, too. 7
Jorge Grant (on 70) – the Forest loanee is right footed and not particularly quick, so he was placed in an awkward position when put on the right because he could not attack the outside, but could not cut inside whilst shielding the ball from the opposing defensive unit. His solution was to try to use the outside of his boot at times and came close to making it work or at least livening the play up, but he did not look especially comfortable with the remit he was given. 6