Having picked up a first away win of the season at AFC Wimbledon last time out, County are back on the road and looking to repeat the trick this Saturday as we travel to MK Dons for the first time in 14 years.
It looked set to be another frustrating afternoon for Dave Challinor’s side at half-time at the Cherry Red Records stadium, trailing 1-0 before a stirring second-half fightback saw County come from behind thanks to goals from Louie Barry and Will Collar.
That win, just our second of the season, has lifted us to 17th in the table seven games in, four points above the relegation zone, four points off a play-off spot and eight points behind early league leaders Gillingham.
For MK Dons, back in League Two for the first time since 2019 after relegation last season, it’s been a strong start to the campaign. Last weekend’s top-of-the-table clash with Notts County finished 1-1 at Stadium MK; Kyle Cameron’s equaliser denying the Dons a third straight home win, leaving them in fourth place – five points above County and two points off top spot.
MK Dons will have started the 2022/23 campaign with ambitions of getting out of League One – a feat they managed, but not in the way that many will have predicted last August.
The Dons had finished 3rd in the previous season, missing out on automatic promotion to the Championship by just one point, with Rotherham United beating them to 2nd place on the final day. In the resulting play-off campaign, the side were beaten 2-1 over two legs by a Wycombe Wanderers side who had finished six points behind them.
Three straight defeats to start last season suggested things may not be as straightforward, but even so few would have predicted the demise that was to follow. Just one win from their first 11 games saw the club part company with boss Liam Manning, with former Leeds United coach Mark Jackson appointed for his first managerial role.
The former Scunthorpe defender won his first game in charge against Forest Green Rovers, but that would be one of only two victories in his first 13 games in charge as the Buckinghamshire side’s woes continued.
Three wins on the bounce in March offered fresh hope, lifting them four points clear of the bottom four, but it proved a false dawn as they failed to win any of their final eight games. Even then though, survival remained in their own hands right until the end.
In their penultimate game of the season, they led Barnsley 4-1 at Stadium MK only to throw that lead away, eventually drawing 4-4 – a result that left them needing to win on the final day to guarantee safety.
Despite having over 30 attempts on goal, Jackson’s side could only muster a 0-0 draw away at Burton, which left the door open for Cambridge to leapfrog them with victory over already relegated Forest Green Rovers, confirming the Dons drop to the fourth tier.
Relegation saw the club part company with Jackson, turning to the experienced choice of former Salford City boss Graham Alexander in his place. The 51-year-old already has a promotion from League Two on his CV, guiding Fleetwood into League One in 2014.
Alexander has received the backing of owner Peter Winkelman over the summer with 11 new additions, including the deadline day addition of Port Vale striker Ellis Harrison for an undisclosed fee. The 29-year-old scored 11 times in- 33 League One appearances last season, and joins a forward line that has had no problem finding the back of the net so far this campaign.
On opening day, they provided a rude awakening back to the Football League for National League champions Wrexham, taking a 4-1 lead at the Racecourse before going on to win 5-3. Victories over Tranmere, Colchester and Doncaster have made it a strong start to life in charge for Alexander, despite defeats away at both Crawley Town and Crewe Alexandra.
- This will be the 11th meeting between the two sides, and the first at Stadium MK since a Boxing Day visit in 2009, which the home side won 4-1. There has never been a draw between the two, with MK Dons winning seven of the previous encounters to County’s three.
- Louie Barry, playing against his former club, will be looking to become the first County player to score in five successive EFL games since Anthony Elding in 2007. The 20-year-old has already beaten his goal tally from the entirety of last season.
- Will Collar’s goal last weekend was his 26th for the club – only Paddy Madden (44) has scored more goals for County since Will made his debut in February 2021