MK Dons v Norwich, League One, September 14, 2009
After losing to Scunthorpe in the play-off semi-finals last season and losing manager Roberto Di Matteo to West Brom, the Dons have made a useful start to the new campaign under Paul Ince, back in charge for the second time after a brief stint as Blackburn boss.
In their last round of matches though the Dons suffered a setback losing 3-2 at Huddersfield, and it was not only the defeat which hurt Ince’s charges. Full-back Danny Woodards and central defender Mathias Doumbe both incurred injuries last weekend, and their inclusionÂ for Monday night’s match with the Canaries remains doubtful. And the absentee list continues with Luke Howell ruled out through suspension after already amassing five yellow cards this season while, most disruptively, leading scorer Jermaine Easter (5/1 to score last; 21/10 to score & MK Dons win) is touch-and-go to play after picking up a thigh strain in training.
All those problems presents Ince with a selection headache, particularly at the back. Newly acquired central-midfielder Mark Carrington may well be forced to played at the heart of the defence, a role he played once or twice whilst at previous employers Crewe, as square pegs are forced into round holes. (The Dons are 6/4 to keep a clean sheet.)
On the plus side, former Manchester United winger Luke Chadwick (7/2 to score) will be chomping at the bit as he comes up against his former club Norwich, the 28-year-old spent two years at Carrow Road but a succession of injuries restricted him to just 18 senior appearances. The offensive midfielder will dovetail with forwards Jabo Ibehre (6/1 to score first) and Jemal Johnson (2/1 to score) as the Dons look to claim their fourth win of the season.
The Dons are three points ahead of Norwich going into Monday’s match, the Canaries having recovered from their appalling start to the season with seven points from their three games under the guidance of new boss Paul Lambert.
After Colchester inflicted City’s heaviest home defeat of all-time with a 7-1 victory in the opening League One fixture, Lambert has wasted no time in trying to shore up the defence on his arrival. Left-back Adam Drury has managed to keep his place in the side, aided by the recall of defensively minded left-winger Simon Lappin (7/1 to score) helping to solidify the left hand side. Elsewhere, Danish centre-back Jens Berthel Askou (12/1 to score) has quickly found his feet in East Anglia, assuming responsibility for marshalling the Canaries backline alongside fellow newbie Michael Nelson.
The visitors have slight problems in midfield with Darel Russell, Matthew Gill and Owain Tudur Jones all sidelined, but with one of the largest squads in the division Lambert will still be able to call upon former Rangers midfielder Stephen Hughes (16/1 to score first) and Irish international Wes Hoolahan to patrol the centre of the park.
Up-front Norwich will be spearheaded by nomadic striker Grant Holt (18/5 to score & Norwich win), who has already netted five goals in all competitions since joining from the Shrews in the summer, with Jamie Cureton and Cody McDonald both eager to dovetail in the Canaries’ attack.
With Charlton waiting as Norwich’s next opponents after the MK Dons, the next two matches will give a good insight into whether Norwich are one of the League Two front-runners this season, or whether promotion will prove to be a much harder slog than originally anticipated.
101predicts: MK Dons 1 – Norwich 3 (28/1)
Full match odds here.