Karl Robinson read the riot act to his MK Dons players after a limp display at Brentford last weekend, calling into question their futures as the January window looms. It usually happens once or twice a season and though you’ll struggle to find a more transparent act of man-management, it usually works nonetheless. A reaction of some sort should be expected.
Trouble is, what does a reaction at Championship level for Milton Keynes amount to? On the evidence of performance data so far, they are falling short of the standard survival requirements, so how far above the mean must they reach before they can be considered good enough to overcome a solid top-half team like Ipswich?
The Dons have won four times this season, three against the current bottom three. The other victory, their most convincing, came against a Blackburn side at a low ebb under Gary Bowyer. On that occasion, they benefited from a penalty and a red card with barely ten minutes on the clock, Adam Henley given his marching orders for bringing down Josh Murphy when through on goal.
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Against top-half opposition, MK have taken just one point from nine matches, scoring three goals and conceding 18. But the patterns are significantly more positive over 45 minutes and there’s arguably more mileage in the 3/1 about the home side to be winning at half-time than the 5/2 over the full 90. Over the initial 45, the aggregate score against those same nine teams is F2 A5 with only Brighton and Hull ahead at the interval prior to last weekend’s aberration at Griffin Park.
This might all sound rather dismissive of Ipswich and the certain guarantees you get with any Mick McCarthy side in respect of commitment and endeavour, particularly at this time of year. But the simple truth is, there’s no value in backing the Tractor Boys at current prices. They haven’t done enough this season to warrant a 13/10 quote away from home.
Curiously, it’s also worth pointing out that MK's average possession stat of 54 per cent is the third-best in the division, which normally counts against them. But Ipswich aren't renowned for their counter attacking prowess and they’ve taken just two points from a possible 15 against the rest of the top eight on that particular metric, conceding a goal every 37.5 minutes. Who knows, maybe they’re more inclined than most to get frustrated and make mistakes when starved of the ball.
With that in mind, let’s take a speculative punt on MK Dons to win 1-0. The current price of 11/1 is nearly two points bigger than my standard conversion when comparing the respective shot data and whereas Ipswich could potentially win this game any number of ways, grabbing the lead and hanging on is by far the most likely way that the home side will prevail. They haven’t scored twice against 11 men inside 90 minutes since the opening day.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.