Accrington Stanley continued their fine League One form with a 2-1 win over MK Dons, lifting them to within touching distance of the playoff places.
It’s still a novel sensation for me that when looking forward to a match, I expect Accrington Stanley to win. Since 2005 I have seen many relegation fights and only the sporadic successful season (including two promotions) meaning without knowing if it is entirely true, it feels like I’ve watched my team be on the losing side more often than coming out as victors.
This is why these past few seasons have been so special for Stanley fans, these are our glory days, we’ve no idea if this is as high as we’ll ever climb. Yet, the strangest sensation is that it feels like there is more to come.
Despite only being able to manage a draw at a seemingly rejuvenated Shrewsbury Town on Wednesday, the home side came into this on the back of six league games without defeat. On the other hand, the visitors had enjoyed victories away at both Charlton and Sunderland in the past month. This was no easy game.
Yet MK Dons’ past triumphs were not to deter my belief that Stanley would win the game. It’s almost a sixth sense that I’m sure all football fans can relate to. Sometimes, you just know how a game will pan out, how difficult it will be, how your team is going to get itself over the line.
Entirely predictably, we scored early, just as we have done against Shrewsbury, Swindon and Northampton recently. The only change John Coleman made from Wednesday’s game was to reintroduce Tariq Uwakwe to the side, with Jon Russell being dropped to the bench, it proved to be an inspired switch-around as Uwakwe put a great ball into Dion Charles who slid in to make it 1-0. A perfect start.
Charles was a menace all game, as the match went on it became quickly apparent that if Stanley were going to score any more goals today, there was a high probability the former Southport player would be involved. For the first 25 minutes the Reds were exceptional and could have added to their lead, but as is often the case with this club, it was not that simple.
MK Dons are a very good footballing team, with their league position perhaps partly due to their insistence to play the ball out from the back, even when it is not advisable. Although, their first clear chance of the match came through a long ball over the top to veteran striker Cameron Jerome, who caught the Stanley defence napping. Jerome set himself up in the area, but could only strike the ball into the head of goalkeeper Toby Savin. A let off.
For the rest of the first half, MK Dons controlled possession without ever really showing much danger. As has been the case with the Dons for much of the season so far, they flattered to deceive. The only other thing of note to happen in the first period was that the iFollow commentator seemed to think Stanley midfielder Matt Butcher was called Mark Butcher, a mistake replicated on many occasions. You never know, Butcher could make it as a cricketer yet.
Coleman would later say in his post-match interview that you couldn’t say any Stanley players had a bad game. I am inclined to disagree. Matt Butcher, who may well have been questioning whether his name was actually Matt at this stage, had a poor game by his standards.
His lack of pace has never really been highlighted in previous games, but as Carlton Morris picked up the ball in his own half and ran half the length of the pitch to equalise, it was Butcher who despite his best efforts was never catching the away side’s forward.
Another player who didn’t especially perform well was right wing-back Harvey Rodgers. In that spell of MK Dons pressure at the end of the first half and beginning of the second, it was noticeable how many times the away side chose to attack down Rodgers’ wing.
They saw him as the weak link in a very impressive defence as of late and they were right. Too many times was the wing-back caught out of position, having no awareness of opposition players around him. Rodgers was very lucky none of his mistakes led to a goal for the visitors, but he might not be so fortunate in the future.
Rodgers however, should have picked up an assist in the second half. The wing-back fizzed in a beauty of a cross to an unmarked Dion Charles at the back post who looked like he was going to add another goal to his name. It was not to be. In fact the ball found its way back to Rodgers on the wing after Charles got his volley all wrong. Although, the striker made up for it not long after.
Stanley may only show it in spells in some matches, but they are also a very good footballing side and that came to the fore as they re-established their lead.
Defender Cameron Burgess played a great pass out to Uwakwe on the wing who in turn fired in another exceptional cross into the box. Stanley’s Colby Bishop and Dons’ Dean Lewington battled for the ball in mid-air, with neither winning it cleanly and the ball dropping to Charles who simply tapped in to make it 2-1.
It was a bit nervy for the remainder of the half, with the visitors pushing for a second equaliser and not really giving up many chances for Stanley to counter. However, Toby Savin was never truly troubled and the home side made it seven games undefeated and rose into seventh position in the league. A good day’s work in my opinion.
If you’d have told me pre-match that Stanley would win 2-1 after a tight game, I’d have said that is more likely than not to happen. In a year when nobody has known what will be happening from one week to the next it becomes reassuring when what you expect to happen comes to fruition, like there is still a resemblance of sanity in the world.
Finally, some sides welcomed fans back to stadiums this week and whilst that is great for all clubs that are able to do this, clubs in Tier 3 (like Stanley) must wait indefinitely for this privilege. Those fans who have already made it back need to realise they are so lucky to be in that position. Focus on the fact you’re back watching your team, don’t be silly now.
Milton Keynes Dons