Both Plymouth Argyle and MK Dons will be feeling the pressure heading into Saturday’s League One encounter at Home Park. The Pilgrims have lost six matches in a row for the first time since 2011. Meanwhile, despite coming to Devon in better form, Russell Martin’s side have only won four of their 18 league matches this season following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Peterborough.
This will be the fifth meeting between the two sides. Argyle have won three whilst MK Dons picked up their only win when the two sides last met at Home Park in 2017.
MK Dons have lost their final game before Christmas in each of the last six seasons. Their last win was when they beat Oldham 7-0 in 2014.
Argyle have conceded two or more goals in seven of their last eight League One matches.
Defender Daniel Harvie will be suspended after picking up his fifth red card of the season against Peterborough on Tuesday night.
Russell Martin has no fresh injury concerns. The trio of Jay Bird, Louis Thompson and Jordan Houghton are all long-term absentees.
Predicted Line-Up (3-5-2)
O’Hora, Keogh, Lewington
Williams, Sørenson, Kasumu, Fraser, Sorinola
Style of Play
Playing in a 3-5-2 formation, Russell Martin’s side play a style of football that sees them convincingly dominate possession, averaging 60.5% from their 18 games which is by far the highest in the division. This, twinned with their 83% passing accuracy means that they are incredibly difficult to dispossess. This is achieved through an aggressive pressing of their opponents and playing short, direct passes. Unlike a number of sides, they don’t rely on pacey wingers in order to create chances but instead look to play through the middle.
Attacking midfielder Scott Fraser is vastly important to the Dons’ style of play. The 25-year-old has scored or assisted seven of his side’s 20 league goals this season. The higher defensive workrate of fellow midfielders David Kasumu and Lasse Sørenson allow him to stay forward, thus lowering his own defensive responsibilities so he can focus driving the side forward when they regain the ball. Playing for fellow League One side Burton last season, Fraser managed a very impressive 11 assists but has only managed just one so far this campaign. His goal tally (five) has already been surpassed but in a side that heavily dominate possession, it has often been the fault of the finishers that his influence on the side this season hasn’t been better rewarded.
A surprise summer signing, 34-year-old Cameron Jerome returned to England following two seasons with Turkish outfit, Göztepe. The forward already has five goals and an assist to his name in 14 appearances this season. Having lost much of the blistering pace that made him so potent earlier in his career, the former Derby man now relies on his physicality and the ability to hold up the ball. The veteran often uses these abilities to sit on the shoulder of the last defender, looking to receive a through ball, most often supplied by teammate Scott Fraser. The duo’s effectiveness in doing so is another reason why Dons often like to keep the ball centrally.
Carlton Morris partners Jerome in the 3-5-2 formation. The 25-year-old rejoined the club on-loan from Championship side Norwich at the beginning of the season. Similar in many ways to his strike partner, Morris possesses more pace and his physical nature allows him to make long runs with the ball. An excellent example of this was in MK’s 2-1 defeat to Accrington at the beginning of December which saw him pick up the ball in his own half before running through and slotting the ball in. Not a prolific goalscorer by any means, his performances this season have begun to attract interest from bigger clubs and Russell Martin’s side could face a fight to keep hold of the loanee beyond January. It is likely that he will pose a strong threat to Argyle in the same way Bristol Rovers’ Ben Hanlan did a fortnight ago.
Scoring goals has been MK Dons’ weak point so far this season. Whilst heavily dominating possession in almost all of their games, Russell Martin’s side have only scored 20 goals in 18 games. Whilst their record of 23 goals conceded is nothing to be ashamed of, only Wimbledon (27) are above them in the table and have conceded more. The suggestion has been that whilst their play is often easy on the eye, it doesn’t count for much if the club aren’t picking up the right results.
Possession orientated but wasteful in front of goal is a description that is fair of both teams heading into this bottom end of the table encounter. It’s unclear exactly how Argyle will set up after their change of formation and the abandonment of Ryan Lowe’s beloved 3-1-4-2 formation against Crewe during the week. The unpredictability should work in Dons’ favour however who have both a settled system and a much more settled side. In recent weeks the Pilgrims have faltered against equally out of form sides such as Ipswich and Bristol Rovers. However, in front of a Home Park crowd and much pressure, a draw is likely to stop the rot, at least for now.