Quickfire return is the target for Dons
MILTON Keynes Dons are gunning for a quickfire return to League One after suffering relegation last season.They took a big step towards achieving that aim by appointing former Brentford boss Martin Allen as their new manager over the summer, as well as holding onto their free-scoring striker, Izzy McLeod.
By Carl Marston
MILTON Keynes Dons are gunning for a quickfire return to League One after suffering relegation last season.
They took a big step towards achieving that aim by appointing former Brentford boss Martin Allen as their new manager over the summer, as well as holding onto their free-scoring striker, Izzy McLeod.
The Dons took just one point off Colchester United last season, a meagre tally that contributed to their own relegation demise.
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The U's also knocked them out of the LDV Vans Trophy, so the Buckinghamshire club will be looking for revenge in the Carling Cup tonight.
McLeod is probably the hottest property in League Two. The England under-21 international has proved a bargain buy since his £100,000 move from Derby County two years ago, contributing 18 goals in each of his first two seasons with the Dons, which amounts to 36 goals in 94 games.
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Opposing defences have problems dealing with his razor-sharp speed, although the 21-year-old is often rather erratic with his finishing. He should start alongside 6ft 4ins target man Colin Platt this evening.
The Dons squad was further strengthened by the arrival of former Ipswich Town defender Drissa Diallo during the summer. The Guinea international spent two seasons at Portman Road, making 49 appearances for Joe Royle's team.
But Diallo has had his ups-and-downs since he arrived in England from Belgian club KV Mechelen at the start of 2003. He moved to Ipswich from Burnley, before trying his luck at fellow Championship club Sheffield Wednesday last season. But his luck ran out, with a series of long-term injuries restricting him to just eight league starts for the Owls.
The Dons moved up to fourth in League Two, following their comfortable 2-0 victory over visiting Bristol Rovers on Saturday. Lloyd Dyer and Platt were on target for the hosts.
Two of the three teams above them, Swindon and Walsall, were relegated alongside the Dons last term. The other relegated side, Hartlepool, have found it more difficult to adjust to life in the lower division, and are yet to win in League Two.
Allen's first match in change of the Dons was marked by a 2-1 home win over Bury - the Shakers are currently rock bottom of the Football League - and although they then lost 2-1 at Mansfield, the Milton Keynes club bounced back with a 2-1 success at Macclesfield, and then Saturday's win over Rovers.
Manager Allen will be loath to make too many changes tonight.
He could hand summer signing Sean O'Hanlon (ex-Swindon Town defender) his first start, while left-midfielder Ben Harding returns to the squad after a back injury.
Last season, centre-half Liam Chilvers was on target for the U's in a 1-1 draw at the National Hockey Stadium on August 20. Chilvers moved to Preston during the close season.
In the reverse league fixture, Neil Danns and Chris Iwelumo netted in the 2-0 win at Layer Road on December 17.
Three days later, Danns (now Birmingham) was again on target as the U's beat the Dons in an LDV Vans Trophy quarter-final tie. Karl Duguid scored the other in a 2-1 success.
The future looks bright for the Dons, both on and off the pitch, not least because they are set to move to a new 22,000-capacity stadium next summer.