MK Dons will be looking to return to winning ways tonight against Walsall, in the first of two home fixtures at Stadium MK this week.
Robbie Neilson’s men have lost back-to-back Sky Bet League One matches this month, having avoided defeat in their five games prior to those defeats. They will want to get back in the win column tonight by overcoming a tricky Saddlers side at Stadium MK.
Should they come out on top, they could close the gap on the play-off places, which currently stands at just four points. A success tonight, coupled with another home victory at the weekend against Oldham Athletic, would certainly pull them back into the mix.
Kick-off this evening is at 7.45pm.
Walsall are without a win in their last five matches so will hope tonight is the night they turn around their form.
The Saddlers currently sit two places below the Dons in the Sky Bet League One table having taken 15 points from their opening 13 matches.
Despite their league position, they have proved hard to beat this season, losing on only four occasions – a total fewer than any other side in the bottom half of the table.
Jon Whitney’s side have, however, won just one game away from home all season, albeit an impressive 2-1 victory over Oxford United. In their other five away fixtures, they have drawn once and lost four times, scoring only five goals and conceding 12.
A first-half brace from Portsmouth’s Oliver Hawkins saw the Dons fall to a 2-0 defeat at Fratton Park.
Hawkins opened the scoring 14 minutes in after Matty Kennedy had intercepted a pass out from the back. The striker then netted in first-half stoppage time to earn Pompey all three points and deny the men from MK1 a third-straight away success.
Robbie Neilson’s team did threaten in the second half but were unable to find a way past Luke McGee in the Pompey goal.
Erhun Oztumer scored a sublime free-kick as Walsall were held to a home draw against Blackpool.
The playmaker opened the scoring on 18 minutes as he curled his free-kick over the wall and into the top corner but Blackpool equalised midway through the second half when substitute Viv Solomon-Otabor fired home.
Jon Guthrie had a goal disallowed as the hosts pushed for a winner, with both teams having to settle for share of the spoils.
Robbie Neilson: “Their front three are very good and they have good pace with the two strikers. They have got (Erhun) Oztumer as a ‘10’ who is very dangerous on his left side – we have to be very wary of that and make sure we don’t give him in any space or give away free-kicks around the box.
“However, if we work hard and play as well as we can then we’ll be hopeful of getting three points.”
Jon Whitney: “We know MK Dons have got pace in wide positions and key men all across the pitch so we’ve got to respect them. They’ll be hurting a little bit after the Portsmouth defeat and they’ll be looking for a reaction.
“We have got to be ready for an MK Dons team on the top of their game but we’re going there confident that we can cause them problems. We’ll look to remain solid but we won’t be going there to park the bus or anything like that.”
Callum Brittain is a doubt for the Dons tonight after limping off during the clash with Portsmouth on Saturday. The defender will be assessed ahead of kick-off.
Meanwhile, Aaron Tshibola returns from suspension but Peter Pawlett (knee) remains sidelined.
Walsall are hopeful of having Zeli Ismail available for selection after the former MK Dons loanee recovered from an illness which kept him out of Saturday’s match with Blackpool.
Adam Chambers is another who could return – he is also back in training for the Saddlers.
John Brooks will be the man in the middle for tonight’s match.
Brooks has refereed 14 games already this season and produced 51 cards – 48 yellow and three red.
His last Dons appointment came in April this year when he took charge of the home fixture with Sheffield United at Stadium MK – that afternoon he booked two players.
Brooks was a lot busier in his last Walsall match, which came back in September - he produced nine yellow cards and one red card in their 2-1 defeat to Bristol Rovers.
Tonight’s assistant referees are Nicholas Cooper and Garry Maskell while the fourth official is Daniel Leach.
Dons wins: 8
Dons wins at Stadium MK: 3
Last Dons win: 4-1, 30 Apr 2017 (Banks’s Stadium)
Biggest Dons win: 4-1, 30 Apr 2017 (Banks’s Stadium)
Draws at Stadium MK: 4
Last draw: 1-1, 12 Nov 2016 (Stadium MK)
Walsall wins: 6
Walsall wins at Stadium MK: 4
Last Walsall win: 3-0, 28 Dec 2014 (Stadium MK)
Biggest Walsall win: 3-0, 28 Dec 2014 (Stadium MK)
Alex Gilbey to score first and MK Dons to win 2-1 – 60/1
*all odds correct at the time of writing
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