Pompey v MK Dons: the opposition view

MK Dons manager Robbie Neilson
MK Dons manager Robbie Neilson
Matt Mayes has joined Gosport Borough on loan from Pompey Academy. Picture: Colin Farmery

Borough sign Pompey Academy trio

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It has been a patchy start to the season for MK Dons, although they may have turned a corner.

August was shaky, then it was into a September which was always going to be tough. But Robbie Neilson’s side came out of it really well.

Last month there were four very big games – Oxford, Peterborough, AFC Wimbledon and Northampton. These were rivalries and derbies that MK Dons were not really well-accustomed to dealing with.

Yet they lost just one of them to give everybody a bit of a boost and the Dons are presently 14th in League One.

All the noise they are making is to get automatic promotion this season, which is a bold ask, but I think they may scrape into the play-offs.

Anything would be an improvement on last season, but I don’t know whether there is enough strength in depth so we’ll see where they are in March and April time.

The Dons found themselves back in League One last term following relegation. It didn’t start well, got worse and worse, and Karl Robinson lost his job in December 2016.

It took six weeks to identify a new manager, but Neilson was chosen and form eventually picked up towards the end.

They had dropped into the relegation zone on a couple of occasions, but eventually improved considerably to take 12th spot.

There was a large-scale overhaul in the summer, the team was barely recognisable with only four or five players left and a handful of kids.

Dean Lewington is still there, though, but rarely gets a look-in these days and is expected to be out of the side for the trip to Portsmouth.

Stuart O’Keefe had a loan spell from Cardiff during the second half of last season and he was a good player. Everyone loves players who do the grunt work.

If Neilson hadn’t made as many midfield signings as he did in the summer, then quite a few of the supporters would liked to have seen him back.

A stand-out player this season has been teenage right-back Callum Brittain.

The home-grown product has impressed, developing from a fringe player into somebody who started six successive matches.

He has also featured for England Under-20s and recently lined up against Italy in a 5-1 victory, with the Dons’ full-back creating two of them.

As a result, he missed last weekend’s 4-1 defeat at Bradford, so it is about whether he walks back into the side in place of last season’s player of the year – George Williams.

The side unveiled for the trip to Portsmouth will be very telling in that respect.