Milton Keynes Dons v Forest Green Rovers
With MK Dons’ terrible season showing no sign of improvement, the decision to relieve manager Liam Manning of his duties always felt inevitable. The response has been immediate, taking advantage of an out-of-shape Portsmouth to earn a 2-0 victory at Fratton Park.
Whilst caretaker manager Dean Lewington is away undergoing an operation, the pair of David Martin and Bradley Johnson are taking the reins whilst MK search for their next head coach and enter this Boxing Day schedule with an outside chance of climbing out of the relegation zone they have been in since October. Johnson’s absence from the matchday squads will make Josh McEachran and Dawson Devoy as the starting midfield pair in a 3-4-3, the latter most crucial to providing the dynamism that links the frontline to the rest of the team. Striker Mo Eisa is a competent finisher when given the opportunity to make movement in behind, Conor Grant and Nathan Holland both decent if unspectacular wide options. Centre-back Jack Tucker, who plays on the right side of back three alongside Warren O’Hara and Zak Jules, netted in the 2-0 win at Portsmouth and will be a likely target of any set piece opportunities that fall MK’s way.
MK Dons play host to the team directly above them, Forest Green Rovers. Consecutive wins this month against Cambridge United and Cheltenham Town have left the Green Devils just a point away from relegation safety, and they will hope a heavy 4-0 defeat at Derby County last weekend won’t kill their momentum. Ian Burchnall still has to cope with limited frontline options. Last season’s top scorers Matty Stevens has been unavailable for the entire season, and focal point striker Jamille Matt has been getting up to speed over the last few weeks. FGR have benefitted greatly however from the signing of journeyman striker Connor Wickham, as well as Scottish midfielder Dylan McGeouch who has recently added quality to a central unit that lacked the fight and robustness required for a relegation dogfight. In Sheffield United loanee Harry Boyes and the incredibly versatile Corey O’Keeffe, Forest Green have a pair of competent wing-backs. Kyle McAllister is another option in those wing-back roles, a player whose versatility has seen him feature everywhere from left-back to centre-forward.
One of the biggest lower league games on Boxing Day, this clash at Stadium:MK presents an opportunity for both MK Dons and Forest Green Rovers to finally climb out of League One’s bottom four. FGR carry more stability with MK currently in an interim management period, but both possess attacking quality that can hurt the other. Both Mo Eisa and Connor Wickham will be among the favourites to score if they feature, and both could get the goals here in a game that is unlikely to be one-sided.
Charlton Athletic v Peterborough United
Charlton Athletic proved that they can defend in keeping a first clean sheet in 12 against Brighton and Hove Albion in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening. Dean Holden will begin his tenure in the dugout when Peterborough United arrive at The Valley on Boxing Day.
Charlton may have stumbled across a new formula to help their bid to climb the table in a rigid 3-4-3 or 5-4-1 formation, in and out of possession. It does feel like they are in a position to have a new manager bounce, even if it does not come against Posh at the weekend.
Grant McCann’s visitors have not played a match since 10th December, which I see as a disadvantage, and have also lost their last four league games, all by a single goal margin.
The South Londoners’ injury crisis is gradually coming to an end, the list stands at: Mandela Egbo, Joe Wollacott, Eoghan O’Connell, Conor McGrandles and Chuks Aneke, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Seagulls. With Miles Leaburn recently returning to the side.
The Addicks have played much better than five wins, nine draws and seven losses suggests this season, and Holden may profit from some positive variance.
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