Sunday, 24 April 2011

Away at Milton Keynes

Let's be honest: it's been a little while since I wrote anything here. This is partly down to my dissertation. It's also partly down to the fact I've had nothing to write about of any interest.

So going to Milton Keynes on Friday to watch Town play in a crunch match against promotion rivals counts as interesting enough. This is not least down to the fact that in many ways it was one of the weirdest away days I've had in 17 years of watching Huddersfield Town.

First, there's Milton Keynes itself. Just how many roundabouts can they fit in a square mile? I've never been anywhere like it for roundabouts. Go a couple of hundred yards, roundabout. First exit. Another few hundred yards, roundabout. Second exit. Another couple of hundred yards, roundabout. Was it a deliberate attempt to get in the Guinness Book of Records or was it merely incidental?

Further on MK, it has this strange feel of a futuristic utopia. It's too green for a built-up area. It seems to be this collection of enclaves of civilisation connected by the many hundreds of roundabouts. I may be conditioned with a certain idea of what an English town is like, but it just felt weird. 'Pleasantville' was a word that popped into my thoughts.

We got to the ground with an hour to spare and managed to get in to the car park just outside the away end. The first thing that was noticed was that the ground wasn't finished yet. And when I say 'not finished' I mean 'where's the outside walls?'
Open plan much? Once we were in, it does have to be said the ground was very impressive. Odd as this seems, the open concourse in particular was very impressive. And when you go in it becomes apparent that the playing surface and lower tier are sunk into the ground. However, you can't escape that the upper tier seems to be some sort of homage to the famed concrete cows.

Eh? I'm all for having room for expansion, but that's taking the mick. Considering that MK currently (officially) get about 10,000 at home and on a good day that might go up to 12,000, the existing room for expansion is already enough. And I don't think anything like 10,000 turn up unless there's a good away following. That picture above was taken with about 5 minutes to go to kick-off, and it didn't get any fuller. Even allowing for 3,000 fans in the away end, there can't have been more than 9,000 there, and not the 11,800 they claimed.

Town started the game poorly and spent most of the first 20-odd minutes on the back foot. Although Dougie Thompson gave Gary Naysmith an 8 in his post-match ratings, I personally thought the Scotland international was our worst player on the day and that the winger gave him a torrid time. His error led to an MK chance inside the first 30 seconds and Bennett had to be sharp to save.

Gradually, Town came into it and scored with the first real attack mustered. Naysmith took a quick throw-in, Roberts ran at the defence and then squared it to Scott Arfield, who struck an absolute beauty from 22 yards. Cue pandemonium in the away end.

The pandemonium was stymied 4 minutes later when MK Dons won a penalty. The lad turned on the edge of the box and fell over. So the ref gave a penalty. Only the ref himself knows why. The lad just fell over. But the referee was poor all game - a couple of minutes before Town's goal he'd given MK a corner when McCombe clearly ducked out of the way of a dropping ball on the call of Ian Bennett and allowed the ball to go out - and so it wasn't too much of a surprise to see him make such an appalling decision.

Not that it mattered. Peter Leven stepped up for the MK Dons, but Ian Bennett went the right way and made a brilliant save.

Still the MK Dons came at the Town defence. Bennett made a sensational save from a deflected drive from outside the box by Balanta. What made it so remarkable was that he couldn't have seen it until it was right on top of him. Bodies had crowded the box, and it took a deflection perhaps six yards in front of him, while travelling at some speed. Quite how he made the save is beyond me.

Town successfully weathered the storm, and went 2-0 up with 10 minutes to go to half-time. The referee managed to make another cock-up by awarding Town a corner when it was clearly a Dons goal-kick. While the MK defence stood around arguing with the ref, they lost their focus. Roberts' corner found the head of an unmarked Lee Peltier who powered home his first League goal for the club on his 79th appearance.

Peltier was replaced at half-time, suffering from a knock sustained late in the first half. Danny Cadamarteri came on as his replacement, with Jack Hunt slotting in at right-back. Town were far better in the second half than they were in the first. Cadamarteri in particular took the game to MK Dons, who were pushed back far more than they had been in the first half.

After a rare MK Dons foray forward broke down, lone Town front man Benik Afobe was able to run at the Dons defence. Defender McKenzie dived in clumsily just inside the box and brought Afobe down. Penalty. Arfield had the chance to make the points safe, but fluffed his lines, proving himself to be more able from 22 yards than 12 - keeper Martin had little trouble saving the effort.

Inside moments, Town should have had another penalty. A half-cleared ball clearly struck an outstretched MK arm as the Dons desperately tried to clear their lines. The referee waved appeals away. However, the ref made up for it a little later, awarding a free-kick wide on the right for Roberts to deliver into the area. Roberts' delivery was a beauty. It had whip and pace and just the right trajectory. From the stand it looked to only take a deflection off an MK head into the top corner, but other reports have credited Danny Cadamarteri with getting a flick on the ball before the deflection. 3-0, points safe.

There was still time for the referee to make an even bigger fool of himself when booking Cadamarteri for getting hauled to the ground by Lewington just inside the area and for MK Dons to stage a late rally in which Doumbe headed home a consolation. But all in all, it was a professional display from Town at a very tough place to go. Before the second goal, MK Dons showed themselves to be a capable side who on a different day could have beaten us, had the breaks gone their way.

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