As Doncaster Rovers prepare to visit Stadium MK this weekend, we spoke to Milton Keynes Citizen's Dons writer Toby Lock to get the lowdown on Liam Manning's side.
Q: How would you assess the season so far?
TL: It's been so much better than last year. I'm not sure exactly what people were expecting but I don't think they were expecting it to be quite as good as it has been so far. Finishing 13th last year was a bit of gut punch because I think everyone fancied a comfortable top half finish. Coming into the season, being around the play-offs would have been great but the fact they've been in it more than they've not, I think is a huge boost. They're playing nice football and even when they're not hitting top gear, they're picking up points which is huge for them.
The last couple of days have been rough with losing key men Ethan Robson and Peter Kioso back to their parent clubs but they've acted quickly and there's a lot of faith in the recruitment. There's a lot of speculation about some of the contracted players like Scott Twine and Matt O'Reilly but the club is now in a position where they can demand big bucks for them.
Q: MK have always had a reputation of playing good football but not necessarily converting that into results. Have they turned a corner on that front?
TL: They are more capable of playing ugly football now when their usual style of play isn't working. Like at the Keepmoat earlier in the season, they didn't have an answer and it wasn't a day for passing it about. What they've learned since then is that when games pan out like that, they have to find a different way and cannot just pass a team to death. Losing games like that have forced them to look at different ways like going longer at times and it's paid off because the record has been good since that period.
Q: What are the strengths on the pitch?
TL: The way Matt O'Riley orchestrates things in midfield has been really key. He's clever on the ball, he rarely gives it away and he'll pop up in both boxes. Dons want him on the ball as much as possible and he's usually paired with a battler so there's good balance in the midfield. O'Riley is probably the standout reason why they've turned the corner and are picking up pace.
Q: And weaknesses?
TL: Sometimes they need a few too many times to score goals. Sometimes it takes Mo Eisa a couple of chances to get his eye in, or for the team to get the ball into him. They can be a bit guilty of playing a bit too much. And also if teams drop back in and play a block, they'll sometimes struggle to break that down. When that sort of thing happens they sometimes have trouble.
Q: What system and style of play does Liam Manning favour?
TL: It's a back three with attacking wing backs and they have looked really lively this season. Kioso got four goals before he was recalled. Last season was about patient, passing football but it's now a lot quicker while still being possession based.
Q: Who are the players to watch?
TL: Scott Twine is attracting a lot of attention and he's been excellent. He's always looking to make something happen and nowhere is safe for goalkeepers when he's around. He was the replacement for Scott Fraser and he's probably better than what Fraser was for Dons.