Read the programme notes from Performance Director Simon Crampton and Head Coach Liam Manning ahead of today's Emirates FA Cup tie with Taunton Town...
Welcome back to Stadium MK for this afternoon’s Emirates FA Cup fixture with Taunton Town.
Today’s visitors knocked out their Somerset rivals, Yeovil Town, to secure a place in the First Round Proper of the Emirates FA Cup. It is only the third time in their history that they have reached this stage of the competition and we look forward to welcoming their players, staff, directors, and supporters to Milton Keynes this afternoon.
I am sure everyone here today will have their own special memories of the FA Cup. My first game in this competition was our away trip to Farsley Celtic back in 2006 – a match certainly less memorable than the away victories over Queens Park Rangers as well as the ‘Heel of God’ here at Stadium MK. The FA Cup is a competition that is associated with some very special occasions for this Football Club and hopefully, we can create some more history this season.
One individual who has been involved in 46 of our FA Cup matches is our skipper, Dean Lewington, who, of course, played in his 900th match last Saturday at Cheltenham Town. To reach 900 professional games is an outstanding achievement and a real testament to his professionalism and character. I have been fortunate enough to work alongside Dean for many years now and he was always a welcome visitor to the treatment room, though this always tended to be for a social call given that he has very rarely ever been injured – in fact, I can probably count the injuries he’s had across the many years that we’ve been working together on just one hand! To play as many games as he has, you have to be extremely robust and there is no doubt that Lewie defines this – it will forever amaze me how he has always been able to dust himself off and go again, week in and week out. Congratulations, Skip!
On the injury front, we have seen the welcome return of both Mo Eisa and Tennai Watson to full training in recent weeks. Mo has now progressed to the point where we have been able to give him minutes off the bench in our last two games and we hope to continue building his match fitness up over the coming weeks. Tennai, meanwhile, is not too far behind Mo and should soon be back on the pitch as well.
Both players have worked tirelessly during their rehabilitation under the excellent guidance of Adam Ross and the Sports Science and Medicine team who, as well as treatment and rehabilitation, have a responsibility for injury prevention and recovery, which has been particularly prudent throughout a busy month of October, where we played Saturday-Tuesday pretty much throughout.
Full credit to the backroom staff, as well as Liam Manning and his coaching team, who have left nothing in the tank in their efforts to support the players throughout the last month. There is no hiding from the fact it has been a difficult spell for us, but it was so pleasing to see the hard work rewarded with a positive points-return last week.
We have certainly given ourselves a platform to work from and with our next three games, including today, taking place here at Stadium MK, there is a real opportunity to build some momentum. You, the fans, have a key part to play in that too – we thank you for your support, home and away, so far this season and your continued backing will remain crucial as we continue through the campaign.
Come on you MK Dons!
Good afternoon everyone and welcome back to Stadium MK. I would like to start by extending that welcome to Rob Dray and his Taunton Town team.
Taunton have enjoyed a brilliant year, securing their first-ever promotion to the National League South as well as, of course, reaching this stage of the Emirates FA Cup. I’m sure our visitors enjoyed beating their local rivals, Yeovil Town, in the last round and I have no doubt they will be travelling here today eager to impress in front of their travelling support.
The Emirates FA Cup is a prestigious competition and one that me, the staff and the players are excited to be involved in. It offers a platform for footballers and team, at all levels of our game, to make history, and I know it’s a competition that has provided some unforgettable memories and occasions for this Club, too.
From a footballing perspective, it is an opportunity for us to build on what was a positive week on the road. Starting with Charlton Athletic, I was delighted that the players and staff were able to enjoy a well-earned victory, following a tough run of results. Throughout the difficult spell we were on, the attitude and commitment from everybody involved never wavered and that’s why I was so pleased to see them get what they deserved at The Valley.
Performance-wise, it was much more akin to what is expected of an MK Dons side. We have been making steady improvements in recent weeks but, at Charlton, we saw most of those aspects come together across the 90 minutes – we moved the ball well, we built up from the back and we created numerous chances while, out of possession, we soaked up pressure and allowed our opponents very few opportunities.
It was a similar case last weekend at Cheltenham Town, though unfortunately we were unable to make our opportunities on goal count. Still, we had the better quality of chances, sustained possession for long periods and coped well with their threats, particularly from set-pieces.
All in all, it was a solid week for us – four points, successive clean sheets and two positive performances upon which we can build. We are by no means out of the woods and we still have a lot of work to do, but I certainly believe we are heading back in the right direction.
Finally, I can’t go without commending our captain, Dean Lewington, on a fantastic milestone last weekend. Reaching 900 career appearances is something quite remarkable and an achievement that I don’t think we will see too many players make in the future. He truly is one of a kind and I, personally, am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him these past 14 months.
Enjoy today’s game.