MK Dons fall to fifth defeat in six- is this is end of Liam Manning’s reign?


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In a game that could have been described as a ‘free hit’ for beleaguered Milton Keynes Dons, the hosts were unable to improve their current plight after Plymouth Argyle mercilessly put Liam Manning’s men to the sword, routing to a 1-4 win.

The questions are being asked of the Dons head coach Manning prior to kick off following a dismal run of results and performances, seeing his side linger in the drop zone having mustered just ten points this season. Things will not have improved following Saturday’s defeat to Steven Schumacher’s Argyle.

Individual errors are setting the side back at present, something that should the man in the hot-seat lose his job over would be very harsh indeed.

In the Dons’ last three outings there have been a needless red card given to Dawson Devoy away at Shrewsbury, Zak Jules conceded a match-deciding penalty at home against Bristol Rovers and against Plymouth Argyle, Jamie Cumming, who has arguably been the one bright spark amongst a season of dirge, dropped a clanger that rolled through his palms and into the net from one of the tamest of efforts to score all season.

All three of these calamitous errors in judgement resulted in defeats and with it the increasing pressure for Manning’s head.

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After such an excellent season last campaign, perhaps supporters should have tempered expectations. However, all teams strive for improvement and the Dons faithful were no different in wanting to go again.

It is always hard to retain than attain, yet the dramatic fall from grace by the Buckinghamshire outfit was far greater than ever could have been imagined.

After all it is worth remembering that only twelve league matches ago, MK Dons travelled to Plymouth and pummelled their counterparts 5-0 in a relentless display.

At times the decision-making between the Dons defence and midfield was borderline unthinkable. When an opposition strike force are choosing to employ the high-press by starting with two strikers on the edge of the penalty are for goal kicks, it is ridiculous to even contemplate trying to play through the line.

Almost inexplicably, that is exactly what the hosts tried and disastrously failed at one more than one occasion, gifting Plymouth their second goal and causing an exodus amongst the stands from fans could see exactly where the match was heading.

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The lack of self-belief and confidence within those on the field is so visible for all to see.

Louie Barry, on loan from Aston Villa, twice had an opportunity to pull the trigger during the match but turned down the opportunity.

The 19-year-old, who two years ago scored against Liverpool in the FA Cup for Aston Villa has clearly played at higher levels of the footballing pyramid, so it cannot be any form of fright at the occasion, just a crisis of confidence throughout the entire playing staff.

To the shock of Argyle goalkeeper Michael Cooper, the Dons did have a shot and it find its way into the net, however just as quickly as the supporters dreamed of life returning to the match, Plymouth restored their three-goal cushion, extinguishing any dreams of a dramatic comeback.

Something must change for Liam Manning’s troops, and fast. It is hard to see where the next goal is coming from, let alone the next points.

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So, what can Milton Keynes look at changing to get a tune to be played on the field?

With no transfer window for another two and a half months, the chance to freshen up and rejuvenate the squad is not a possibility.

Even then it is notoriously hard to improve the side during January as players are in the middle of contracts, so if you wish to permanently sign a player it involves transfer fees.

If you then look at terminating the contracts of any of your loanees you are not guaranteed to get any replacements who are better, as most of the time the players only become available as they have not been featuring, so a lack of match fitness will mean a delayed impact, or the other main reason being that they were returned to their parent club because of a perceived lack of ability.

If the playing staff cannot be refreshed, then the managerial position will continue to be looked at.

With Liam Manning already under pressure and openly admitting to being so, those baying for his blood will only intensify their calls and soon leave the Chairman, Pete Winkelman with no other option.

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If you were to ask the supporters prior to kick-off against top-of-the-table Plymouth whether they realistically expected to garner a positive result, their answers would have been not.

Nevertheless, it is the manner at which you lose games that gets looked at. Milton Keynes more resemble a side devoid of idea and belief, it is almost a case of ‘when’ Manning is relieved of his duty than ‘if’.

If Gillingham had managed to get a result at home to Rotherham on the final day of the campaign last year, MK Dons would currently be in the Sky Bet Championship.

Instead, they reside 22nd and only two points off the bottom of League One table following this recent hammering.

What a difference 168 days make…

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

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