Monday, 3 March 2014

Lucky Number Seven

Milton Keynes Dons 0
Sheffield United 1
Stadium MK
Attendance 9,192
Away Blades 1,565

The fantastic run of form continues as Stefan Scougall fired The Blades to a seventh consecutive win in all competitions. Just a week ago the bottom four loomed but a never say die attitude and and a fighting spirit has given us the edge over our opponents and we are now in the dizzy heights of twelfth (it still feels strange being happy about that), we are slowly putting space between ourselves and the unthinkable of League Two football. Win number seven came with a cost, as we wait with bated breath on news regarding Brayford and Murphy, two instrumental players who had to leave the pitch due to injury.

United have not seen a lot of results go in their favour when playing Milton Keynes since their move to Stadium MK, and with the opponents known for being a patient passing side who like to dominate possession and frustrate away teams Clough had to get his tactics and team selection one hundred percent spot on. Hindered with Harry Maguire's absence due to a knee injury acquired at Colchester Matt Hill was called upon to fill the gap in the back four, the other change was Ryan Flynn making a return to the starting eleven in the place of Ben Davies. One intriguing selection was that of sixteen year old Louis Reed, a first year scholar of our academy, maybe one to watch for the future if called to be on the bench at such a young age. 

As the match got under every one could see we had set out our stall to annoy Milton Keynes and force them away from playing their usual game, the tenacity of Scougall and the lack of space and time on the ball given to our opponents left them without a plan b, and all to often they resorted to punting the ball up field, which suited us as we took control of the stray possession. MK had a few half chances but nothing for the home crowd to get to excited about, the best being Lewington's shot which deflected out for a corner. Baxter and Murphy both had similar chances to Lewington, but both had the same result. Just before the twenty minute mark disaster struck, Brayford had possession and as he darted forward but pulled up, obviously in pain he was forced to put the ball out of play, Blades fans were forced to place their heads in their hands as one of the most influential players in the team hobbled off, a huge blow and what looks to be a calf injury, a worrying moment for the rest of the game and season respectively. With no recognised right back on the bench it fell to midfielder Ben Davies to take up that role. Luckily this blow didn't destroy moral and The Blades turned up the tempo, Flynn went on one of his darting runs, and after hitting a low driven cross Scougall attempted the spectacular trying to back heel it in to the bottom corner, it was a whisker wide and Scougall felt the wrath of Baxter who felt he was in a better position to score. With Milton Keynes still being forced into the long ball game United began to cause real problems, after a few half chances from Baxter and Flynn United found a way to break the deadlock. A throw in was given to Baxter who played the ball to Liverpool loanee Conor Coady, he did well to keep hold of the ball showing great strength and determination to see off a number of challenges, he then played a lovely ball to Scougall who used those lightening feet and a burst of pace to knock the ball forward, with only the keeper in his way the young Scott treated us all to a cool finish placed comfortably into the back of the net, sending the away fans wild. The already subdued home fans fell completely flat and silent, if not for the noise now being generated by the travelling faithful you could have heard a pin drop, an almost eerie feeling was present as you looked around this concrete hollow shell of a stadium, with not enough of a fan base to even fill a quarter of it it begs the question why, why did this soulless place even need to be built, the team would still struggle to sell tickets at the National Hockey Stadium. A further concern surfaced when Jamie Murphy had to be replaced by
Chris Porter, he to having too leave the pitch due to injury, the affects and fatigue of this overly hectic fixture schedule obviously now rearing its ugly head. With Porter now the centre forward Baxter took up Murphy's position on the left. Milton Keynes out of frustration hammered the ball forward, they were now desperate, knowing unless they got a goal just before half time that the second half would be an uphill struggle for themselves. United defended three corners superbly in the four minutes of time added on, as the half ended United marched down the tunnel with a one goal advantage. 

United restarted the game brightly and were unlucky not to add a second goal to their lead, Baxter's effort saved by Milton Keynes keeper Martin. Baxter again had a chance on goal but his first effort was blocked he followed up with a second beating the opposing keeper but Spence was on hand to clear the ball from danger. A triple change for the home side showed just how much we had frustrated and troubled their side, and the changes screamed desperation. The pressure from United was not halted as we won a free kick in a dangerous position, but Ben Davies couldn't get his attempt on target his dead ball going just wide. A spell of pressure had to be dealt with as The Dons threw everything at us in an effort to get back into the game. But the back four dealt with two corners well and aside from a deflected shot from Baldock landing straight to Mark Howard and a long range effort from Ali fired over the crossbar. Kay could have put in the equaliser from a corner but Howard held onto the effort comfortably. Again Baxter had a chance to double the lead, Coady having the vision to play a sublime ball to Baxter, but his
weak effort was saved by the legs of Martin, a wasted chance in which Baxter should have done better. Kennedy replaced the tired Scougall in the final part of the game, not just to save the young midfielder's legs but to also sew up the points and prevent being over run by the desperate Dons. Odelusi got a header on target in the final moments of time added on but again Howard claimed the ball with ease. The final whistle sounded and another three points came our way, another tricky fixture out of the way and win number seven claimed, as long as this run continues the future will begin to brighten, the revival of a club seemingly on life support a few weeks ago had begun.

-Jonathan Gascoigne 

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