Karl Robinson had a mixed day on Saturday. His starting line-up left much to be desired – the inclusion of Jon Otsemobor, to play out of position at centre-back, certainly precipitated a sinking feeling in me when the starting line-ups were read out.
Otsemobor, reluctant to prove me wrong, gifted Preston a goal in the first-half, dithering on the ball, before attempting a back pass which rolled into the path of North End striker Joe Garner, presenting him with a gift-wrapped goal.
Robinson’s decision to retain the services of Otsemobor for this season both confused and infuriated me at the same time, and continues to do so now. Otsemobor was consistently lacklustre in the second half of last season, and was the first name I thought of when Robinson made (what transpired to be idle) threats to sift out the dead wood during the off-season.
I am reluctant to compile a hatchet job on any MK Dons player, but Otsemobor leaves much to be desired, not just in his performances, but in his seemingly casual, apathetic approach to the game. He will not win many loose balls – he often fails to even challenge for them – and he seems reluctant to move at anything much above a light jog. There is only so far you can get on one goal, even if it was a last-minute winner against a certain team from South-West London.
Further forward, too, the Dons’ starting eleven on Saturday was questionable, lacking the necessary experience for a tough away game against formidable opponents. Luke Chadwick was left on the bench, while George Baldock, Dele Alli and Jason Banton all retained their places – three players with a combined age that would fail to qualify for a state pension. All three impressed the previous week at home to Crewe Alexandra, but different games present different challenges and what has succeeded one week may not have the correct ingredients to excel the next. Robinson may be keen to put Alli in the shop window – the Dons are a selling club, and the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool are said to be keeping tabs on the young midfielder – but his priority needs to be putting out the team with the best chance of winning the game, regardless of age or market value. Alli may be worth more money to the club than Luke Chadwick, but right now Chadwick is probably worth more points.
Still, credit to Robinson, he made a triple substitution early in the second-half (introducing Chadwick, McLeod and new loanee Samir Carruthers) which shifted the momentum of the match, and could very well have seen the Dons leave Deepdale with three points under their belt rather than just one. No manager will get every starting eleven correct, but taking action to correct those mistakes, rather than complacently expecting the eleven players you have fielded to come good, is the sign of a good manager, of an aware tactician. Games last ninety minutes and a manager should be seeking to gain an advantage in every one of those minutes: no match is won or lost at the first whistle.