MK Dons make the trip to Greater Manchester for what, last season, would have been a League One fixture. However, with both sides suffering poor campaigns last time out, they kick-off their respective seasons in League Two against each other. For the visitors, it is their first game at this level since promotion from League Two in the 2007/08 season.
Oldham Athletic v MK Dons
Both clubs have been busy in the transfer market this summer, trying to bolster their squads ahead of a League Two return. Oldham have added nine new recruits, while the Dons have added ten. The main difference, though, lies in the departures.
The Latics have let more players go (13) than they have brought in, suggesting that new manager Frankie Bunn was not happy with the playing squad at his disposal when he joined in June. The Dons, meanwhile, have let just three players go on to other clubs; Ed Upson joined Bristol Rovers, Scott Wootton moved to Plymouth and Ben Tilney made the move to Larne in Northern Ireland. Youngsters Connor Furlong, Giorgio Rasulo and Hugo Logan were also released, as was veteran Nigel Reo-Coker.
With overhauls occurring at both clubs, it’s likely that two very different teams will be lining up to face each other than the two that took to the field at Boundary Park for this fixture back in February.
While a lot of Oldham’s main players from last season have left, they managed to make one acquisition that could turn out to be one of the signings of the summer. Jose Baxter, released from a second spell at Everton, spent time with the Latics for the 2013/14 season, scoring 15 goals in 43 games, a fair return for a midfielder.
He then moved on to Sheffield United and was picked up by former club Everton after the Blades released him for failing a drugs test. He didn’t make a senior appearance for Everton during this time but played 10 times for the U23’s as he regained his fitness after so long out.
There is potential for Baxter to be one of the top players in the league if he can get his career back on track; there must be if a Premier League club were willing to add him to their books just one year ago. If Oldham can unlock that potential within him once again, he could cause a lot of problems not just for the Dons in their opening game, but for other teams throughout the season.
With two of the potential big parts of MK Dons’ attack missing through injury, focus will instead fall on their defence and how they can cope, rather than who is scoring the goals at the other end for now.
Chuks Aneke is close to a return, according to Paul Tisdale’s recent press conference, whereas Osman Sow is not too far behind him. Aneke is tipped to be one of the best players in the league once he is back, whereas Sow will be hoping to finally settle into the club after scoring just twice last season and missing a lot of it through injury.
The Dons have bolstered their defence brilliantly with four new additions, all of whom could be in line to make their debuts against Oldham. Mitch Hancox looks to be the long-awaited Dean Lewington replacement – whether this replacement is fazed or implemented straight away is yet to be seen. The additions of Mathieu Baudry and Jordan Moore-Taylor are also excellent pieces of business for a League Two side.
However, the acquisition of Baily Cargill turned many heads, as the ex-Bournemouth player joined on a free transfer following his release from the Cherries. He has had a number of successful loan spells at club higher up in the football pyramid and even made his Bournemouth debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
With so many defenders now on the books at the Dons, all with great quality, it’s hard to decide who is going to be given their chance first. However, if Cargill is given his opportunity against Oldham, expect him to be at the centre of any action at his end of the pitch.
Before a loss at Boundary Park last season, MK Dons had won there on each of their last three visits. Stretching back to 2004, 11 games have been played between the two sides in Oldham, and the visitors have come out on top five times compared to the host’s six.
The Dons, while lacking in attack until the return of Sow and Aneke (assuming that either Kieran Agard or Robbie Muirhead, potentially both, will be played on the wings), will make sure that the focus is on not conceding, rather than pushing everybody forward.
Oldham’s attack is unlikely to cause too many problems for such a solid defence, so expect them to have a tough time in front of goal. This could be a tight one purely because of the lack of attack in both sides, but MK Dons have that little bit extra about them, so expect them to narrowly see this one through.
Prediction: Oldham Athletic 0-1 MK Dons