Milton Keynes Dons 1-1 Stevenage Player Ratings: Chair impresses

Paul Tisdale – bbc.co.uk

Milton Keynes Dons and Stevenage were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Stadium:MK on Saturday, after Ilias Chair’s first half strike was cancelled out by Chuks Aneke’s second half finish from close-range. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Milton Keynes Dons

Lee Nicholls – the goalkeeper reclaimed his place from Stuart Moore, but might have hoped to have done better with Ilias Chair’s effort that appeared to trickle past him. Saved simple efforts from Revell early in both halves. 5

Mathieu Baudry – the former Doncaster defender had been absent with a long-term injury and he did not look entirely fit. Passing was inaccurate at times and he was very often beaten in the air by Revell, prior to being taken off at half-time in what Paul Tisdale diplomatically described as a tactical decision. 4
Russ Martin – the former Norwich stalwart provides good leadership qualities in the absence of Jordan Moore-Taylor and those were on display here, as well as an ability to intercept through balls. Produced a decent 56th-minute effort that forced the first save of the game from Farman, too and was deserving off the official man-of-the-match award. 7
Baily Cargill – the former Bournemouth man’s ability to make overlapping runs from a wide centre-back role is normally valuable to MK, especially in terms of providing width on that left side, but he did not get up quite as much as usual here. Headed wide at the near-post from a right-sided delivery early in the second half, before being taken off a minute before the hour mark. 5

Callum Brittain – the academy graduate has taken time to establish himself as part of Paul Tisdale’s plans, partly due to one or two fitness issues over the winter period and while he has got in more recently, he struggled to get into the game in the first half. Made more forward runs after the break – although, the relentless pressing for loose balls we saw from him last season was not quite evident here and his technical ability remains a work in progress. 5
Jordan Houghton – it could, perhaps, be questioned whether MK need Houghton, a sitting midfielder who does the simple things well, in a team that also contains three centre-backs. Aside from one cross-field ball in the first half, Houghton’s passing range looked slightly limited – his qualities may be better suited to an anchor man role in a team that only has two centre-backs. 4
Alex Gilbey – the energetic midfielder, who has been a very positive influence on this side over the last two seasons, appeared to want to press a lot of the time; those qualities might have been slightly better used in a three-man midfield in which there’s sufficient cover centrally. Even when Gilbey is not quite at his best though, he’s never quiet which is testament to his enthusiasm for the game. 6
Dean Lewington – the stalwart made some intelligent runs in the first half and took set pieces cleverly at times, but also suffered at times from the infrequency of overlapping runs from Cargill – because we know he is not quick. 6

David Wheeler – the wide forward has flourished under Paul Tisdale before at Exeter, but it’s fair to say this was not his day; a subdued first 22 minutes from the former Exeter man was followed by an injury. 4
Kieran Agard – the top scorer was starved of service here. He does not have the pace to run onto balls over long distances so, the fact that his first half service compromised of hopeful punts down the channels did not help him. In the second half, he was always unlikely to thrive off high crosses against Cuthbert and Nugent, so his influence was minimal until Simpson came on. 5
Jake Hesketh – the Southampton loanee was anonymous in the first half but looked far livelier after the interval, when he press well off the ball and got on it more. Then again, he still struggled for opportunities to get it on his favoured left foot. 7

Chuks Aneke (on 22) – the wide forward, who replaced the injured Wheeler, seemed to be slightly off in terms of his first touch at times. He did, at least, look brighter when Simpson came on and grabbed the equalizer by prodding home from close-range. 5 
Conor McGrandles (on 45) – the midfielder by trade replaced Baudry at the interval, deputising at the right of the back-three. Fared reasonably well and saw his 64th-minute free-kick pushed wid of the right-hand post. 7
Robbie Simpson (on 59) – the target man’s physical presence proved very useful against deep-block opposition, occupying Nugent to allow the likes of Agard and Aneke to pick up little gaps and find goalscoring positions. MK Dons will not be able to win every League Two game on the deck and Simpson, described by Paul Tisdale as a “valued and reliable member of the squad”, gives them the option to mix things up. 8

Stevenage

Paul Farman – the former Lincoln stopper has been prone to the occasional error this season, but he is also a good shot-stopper. Untested here, until he tipped Martin’s 56th-minute effort onto the post, then pushed McGrandles’ free-kick wide, getting a minor back injury in the process. 7

Luther Wildin – the athletic right-back is known for producing driving runs but we did not see quite as much of that here, at least not in the first half and that was something of a let-off for the hosts, who gave him ample opportunities. Did his defensive work well, though and got forward a couple of times in the closing stages, including one run that led to Byrom’s chance in injury-time. He has more of that in his locker. 5
Scott Cuthbert – the battle-hardened centre-back produced some strong blocks and was aggressive in his handling of Agard, sometimes forcing him out into the channels, away from goalscoring areas. A warrior-like performance. 9
Ben Nugent – Stevenage have kept eight of their 10 league clean sheets when Nugent has started and here, we saw why. While Cuthbert challenged out wide, Nugent held the fort and never allowed any space in behind him, winning most of the aerial duels, even if he found his hands tied more when Simpson came on. 8
Johnny Hunt – the former Chester man is arguably among the most underrated left-backs in League Two; he produced another quietly efficient display here, with one or two deftly-dinked diagonals into Revell and others. Forced back more after the break, thoug. 7

Arthur Iontton – the academy graduate provided boundless energy as well as unerring composure and tactical discipline; the latter two qualities, we do not always associate with teenagers who only made their senior debut within the last 12 months. 6
Michael Timlin – the experienced midfielder offered Stevenage’s midfield battling qualities and it was clear to see that they have become a tougher nut to crack this year than they were in 2017-18. Some excellent defensive headers highlighted his willingness to dig in, as well as his ability to force Hesketh onto his unfavoured right foot in the second period. 8
Mark McKee – the creative midfielder has not always been able to establish himself as part of Dino Maamria’s plans, but here he showed a willingness to adjust to the manager’s system by showing tactical discipline and producing one or two crunching challenges. Showed moments of quality, too, especially towards the end of the first half, before being taken off early in the second. 7

Ilias Chair – the QPR loanee certainly lived up to his billing with some excellent dribbles in from the left channel; his agility and ability to quickly change the direction of play in tight areas is at times impossible to live with. Deserved his goal, even if he was lucky to be given time to shoot from just outside the box. Quieter in the second half, when he suffered from a shortage of runners outside him – but still came close with two efforts from outside the box, one free-kick and one open play shot, in the closing stages. 8
Alex Revell – the experienced, powerful front-man led the line well and won a lot of the diagonal balls played to him from deep against Baudry, even if his teammates were not always in close attendance. Forced the goalkeeper into a simple save within the first five minutes of both halves, although he tired slightly in the second period as the game became stretched. 6
Kurtis Guthrie – the lanky but technical forward has recently adjusted well to the role on the right of the front-three and provided a threat early on from diagonal balls, knocking the ball down for Revell’s opening within the first 5 minutes. Sometimes though one might like him to be slightly more active when the ball is not in his vicinity; appeals for a penalty on the hour-mark went unheeded. 5

Joel Byrom (on 52) – the disciplined midfielder replaced McKee early in the second half, perhaps to steady the midfield for a defensive plan; although, when Wilkinson came on, he was given the freedom to make a lung-busting run in injury-time, only to unfortunately fire over from close-range. 6
Moses Makasi (on 80) – the West Ham loanee made some positive runs from the right channel in the closing stages. 6
Luke Wilkinson  (on 85) – the centre-back was brought on for Guthrie to shore things up in the closing stages and it worked to an extent, with other players freed up to get forward more. 7