To adapt a joke from the comedian John Oliver about New Years’ Eve, Sheffield United’s comeback against us last Saturday was like the death of the family pet, no matter how much we knew it was going to happen, we were never truly prepared for how awful it actually was.
The ineptitude of surrendering a two-goal to a team with ten men who you were cruising against hasn’t quite been given the analysis it deserved after the sacking of Steven Pressley on Monday morning. Despite his record over the past 15 months being truly indefensible, it was still a surprise to see it happen. Expanding on John Oliver’s joke, it was like an old family pet unexpectedly getting run over by a truck. Or depending on how you feel about Pressley, it was like that moment in Of Mice And Men when Carlson took Candy’s dog out back and shot it.
The attention this week has been on just which manager will get the chance to either leave us at the earliest opportunity or outstay his welcome and get sacked in 18 months time. This forthcoming game against Milton Keynes ‘Dons’ has been an afterthought. In the perilous situation that we find ourselves in, this is dangerous thinking as we need to make every game count. The difficulty of the opposition may lead to some thinking this is essentially a freebie for messrs Hockaday and MacFarlane but we were very close to beating Sheffield United which shows that we definitely have the quality to take something from this upcoming game.
Barring a late emergency loan deal, Lee Burge will have to step up in goal following the return of Jamie Jones to Preston North End. Burge played well overall in his last appearance and has experience of a relegation battle with Nuneaton, those shaky performances a few months ago will nevertheless spread nerves in the defence. With that in mind, a recall for Andy Webster could be in store just to add some experience to a youthful looking defence.
Also, the bean-pole German striker Nick Proschwitz has been signed on loan ahead of this game, swelling our ranks of many, many forwards. There are plenty of attacking options now, it’s about getting the right mix which we have failed to do so far this season.
Without knowing what the atmosphere at training will have been like this week and what approach Hockaday and McFarlane have in mind for this game. There may be a few surprises with players freed from the biases of the Pressley-era. Below though is the team I would pick.
Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Burge; Willis, Martin, Webster, Haynes; Odelusi, Thomas, Fleck, O’Brien; Proschwitz, Samuel.
Last Time We Met
Following the announcement of the big return to Coventry, Sky Blues fans travelled to Milton Keynes back in August hopeful of witnessing the start of a new, positive era for Coventry City. The match fell short of expectations with a limited Coventry City side barely containing the ‘Dons’ with loanee Ryan Allsop having to make some agile saves to keep us in the game. A 0-0 draw was a decent result and preserved an unbeaten run to give the team a sense of momentum heading into the club’s return to the Ricoh Arena.
How Are They Doing?
It’s that dreaded season that many League One fans had been hoping wouldn’t happen. MK ‘Dons’ are right in the promotion mix alongside Swindon Town and Bristol City. They have won their past two games and will be taking around 2,000 fans to the Ricoh Arena, looking to further cement that 2nd place position in the table.
Karl Robinson’s team could be without two of their star performers this season with top-scorer Dele Alli injured and Carl Baker (apparently who used to play for us) potentially being rested for this fixture. Regardless of the absences of those two, there is still some incredible midfield quality to call upon. None more so than Keith Andrews, a cut above most League One midfielders and at the start of the season was an important box-to-box midfielder at Watford in the Championship. The gifted Chelsea youngster Lewis Baker was brought in earlier this week and adds further quality to a the MK ‘Dons’ midfield.
The ‘Dons’ are still coping with the loss of Arsenal loanee Benik Afobe to Wolves with several players being experimented with in his vacated position. They can call upon some proven players at this level in Devante ‘Son of Andy/Andrew’ Cole, Dean Bowditch and Will Grigg competing for one striking spot. Grigg has been in form of late and should start in this game, the powerful and quick Devante Cole may be played on the right of midfield too.
There is less strength in depth in defence but the first-choice players are good enough not to require back-ups. Dean Lewington, the only remaining player at the ‘Dons’ to have played for Wimbledon FC, continues to be ever-present at left-back. Kyle McFadzean has been a stand-out dominant centre-back at this level before but can be exposed slightly by the ‘Dons’ open, passing game.
Possible Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) Martin; Spence, Kay, McFadzean, Lewington; Potter, Andrews; Cole, Baker, Reeves; Grigg
This isn’t a game that I’m particularly looking forward to. Performances have been better of late and if we do go down this season, we might question whether Pressley might actually have been steering the team towards a slow upwards improvement in form. The worry is that the mental scars of giving up a two-goal lead against Sheffield United will affect the team negatively, the uncertainty over the managerial situation will affect the team negatively and that the what could be toxic atmosphere could affect the team negatively. That doesn’t even factor in the quality of that MK ‘Dons’ offer themselves.
Sometimes crazy things happen when a manager leaves with players given an opportunity to reinvent themselves or show what they’re about. I worry though that the team will view this game as a no-lose situation and MK ‘Dons’ will take this very seriously, ergo a heavy victory for the away team which no-one has to take responsibility for. Optimistically, I can see us exploiting the nerves of our promotion-chasing opposition, perhaps by frustrating them by sitting deep and wiping Karl Robinson’s self-satisfied smirk off his face with some rapid counter-attacking goals.
Can I really see that happening with this Coventry City team? No. 4-0 win for MK ‘Dons’.
If you want to know why I refer to the team from Milton Keynes as MK ‘Dons’, click here.