Liam Manning’s men march on closer to the promotion positions as MK Dons cruise past Shrewsbury Town


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For Milton Keynes Dons supporters, the Sky Bet League One table has not looked as rosy for many a season.

Manager Liam Manning and his troops currently find themselves in a remarkable run of form. At this point, The Dons have the highest points tally in 2022, second only to Liverpool across the English professional pyramid.

Also worth taking into consideration is how their form has continued despite a number of transfers in this spell. Since January, there were eight exits and as many arrivals to their first team squad.

If we compare this movement to Liverpool and their run of form, Jurgen Klopp has moved out just two of his younger players to the Championship, only bringing in Luis Diaz from Porto to their first team, minimising change to their squad dynamic. Manning has done an excellent job in finding squad harmony so quickly considering.

As part of the changes, Manning lost his starting goalkeeper, wing-back, central midfielder and two forwards, effectively seeing the side’s spine dismantled at a crucial time of the season.

This disruption could have scuppered any momentum, as we have seen on numerous occasions up and down the pyramid in years gone by. The Dons, however, have recruited excellently and did not suffer any break in form during this period.

Under the recruitment tutelage of Director of Football Liam Sweeting, they have been able to strengthen crucial areas, despite the sales of players to clubs in higher divisions.

For example, trading goalkeeper Andrew Fisher for Jamie Cumming, who had previously been on loan at relegation-threatened Gillingham, is a player who is more comfortable in possession. He is also an improved shot-stopper and seems an inspired swap. Cumming produced a string of miraculous saves to deny goals against Rotherham, Cambridge, and Cheltenham in recent weeks.

Cumming also can boast that he has the highest prevented goal tally statistics in the Football League throughout this season. Similar to how strikers are judged on xG, those opposing in between the sticks are considered also with their own parameters. Scoring a mammoth 12.10 pG, the Chelsea loanee is over two higher than his closest competitor, Josh Vickers of Rotherham.

His score will only increase following Milton Keynes’ home victory over Shrewsbury Town, as the keeper produced a gravity-defying dive to thwart Josh Vela midway through the first half. In contrast, Andrew Fisher has a rating below 3.00 pG.

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Should Liam Manning’s men miss out on promotion by a handful of points, two away matches in October against 23rd placed Shrewsbury Town and rock bottom Doncaster Rovers may well be left to rue.

After walking away from both games with two losses and disastrous performances, the potential was there to derail the excellent start to the season but such did not happen. However, five months later the fans are left wondering what might have been.

With the Dons sitting in third position, only one point behind both Rotherham United and Wigan Athletic with just six games to go, those with ties to the Buckinghamshire outfit will be reflecting back.

However, following their fantastic run of form and results, and The Dons perched on the edge of the promotion playoffs, it is now about continuing with this progression.

In a tough seven days coming up, Liam Manning will be preparing his men for the rearranged fixture at home against Crewe Alexandra before facing vociferous rivals AFC Wimbledon on the road four days later

With both sides offering a different style of challenge, they will be key hurdles to overcome in their challenge to finish as high up the table as possible. Unfortunately for the Railwaymen, Crewe have found themselves stranded at the foot of the table, eight points from safety with seven games remaining.

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Should Crewe harbour any ambitions of making a dramatic survival bid, David Artell will need to inspire his side to produce performance levels previously found wanting.

AFC Wimbledon, similar to Crewe in that they find themselves at the wrong end of the table, will be galvanised facing their biggest rivals, especially off the back of going 22 games without a win and losing to an injury-time winner away to Sheffield Wednesday.

Although they may not seem the stiffest of tests, following these two fixtures are arguably the two most challenging remaining games out of the remaining six matches. They are hosting playoff-pushing Sheffield Wednesday before travelling to Oxford United over the Easter period.

But for the time being, the focus remains on those fixtures approaching in the coming days. Should Manning’s men dream of the top two, they still need help from lady luck as Rotherham have one match in hand, with Wigan having two.

But in football, anything is possible.

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Covering Milton Keynes Dons football, Northants Steelbacks Cricket and the England International side also.

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