While in terms of team quality MK Dons’ away fixture with Lincoln in September would be seen as the toughest test of the season, their trip to Bury on Saturday has far more riding on it. A win for the Shakers would see them move into second place in League Two, displacing the Dons, while a win for either Mansfield Town or Carlisle United could see Paul Tisdale’s side slip out of the automatic promotion places altogether.
MK Dons Face Toughest Test of the Season as They Travel to Bury
One thing that the Dons do have in their favour is that a drop out of the automatic positions would likely only be temporary. They have two games in hand on both Bury and Mansfield and, with their brilliant form throughout most of the season, it’s not difficult to assume they can pick up the required wins in those two games.
Mansfield welcome Yeovil Town to Field Mill tomorrow in what should be a routine fixture for the Stags, while Carlisle face the slightly tougher prospect of travelling to Sixfields to take on Northampton Town. While the entire situation of tomorrow’s fixtures is not ideal, this is probably the best Paul Tisdale and his side could have hoped for. Even if they don’t pick up the win tomorrow but Mansfield do, there’s still a realistic chance of catching them with their games in hand. This would be less likely with Carlise, who have played 27 games, the same as the Dons.
Tisdale’s side also go into the game having already beaten Bury this season. They were the first visitors to Stadium MK in this campaign having been relegated from League One along with the Dons. It was a tight game that, on the balance of play, Bury deserved to win, but Ouss Cisse’s late winner maintained their 100% start at that point.
A win for either side tomorrow could potentially put them within touching distance of leaders Lincoln, who travel to Swindon. The Imps have a great recent record at the County Ground, though, winning on their last two league visits.
Something the Dons will have to deal with tomorrow is the absence of Rhys Healey. The 24-year-old spent the first half of the season on loan at the club from Cardiff City but returned to South Wales last week after the expiry of the deal.
Paul Tisdale has been open in his desire for Healey to return on another loan but is also respectful of the fact that he is Cardiff’s player and it is ultimately their decision.
Healey’s absence paves the way for someone else to make their mark on the squad. Lawson D’ath would be the most likely candidate, having often been the first substitute for one of the attacking three. Osman Sow could also come into contention after his first goal in over a year against Cambridge United but a start may be too far ahead of him yet. The same goes for Peter Pawlett, who suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from an ankle injury.
D’ath, who is yet to find the net so far this season apart from in a recent U23’s game against Peterborough, may not provide the same goalscoring nous as Healey, who had eight. However, with him being the most likely replacement, he becomes the key man for tomorrow’s fixture. A positive performance may just dissuade Tisdale from dipping into the transfer market.
It’s no secret that the Dons have struggled in big games this season. They’ve conceded at important times in fixtures against Lincoln, Stevenage and, most recently, Northampton.
Saturday’s game is another big one. While the confidence they will have taken from their big win against Cambridge should do the team some good, it was almost two weeks ago and they have not had a game since.
It could be a disappointing game for those that make the trip but expect the Dons to bounce back emphatically afterwards.
Prediction: Bury 2-1 MK Dons