With only days to go until the start of the FAWNL season. How can MK Dons Women improve on what was a historical season for them last year?
After a great 2022/23 season the Dons will be looking to improving on last season and target key areas that can help them jump into the top 4 or even higher.
Last season they lost several influential players in key areas due to injuries, which ended up as a big loss and damaged their chances of breaking into the top 4. But with the players brought in by Charlie Bill somewhat helped to recover his squad. The new players that were brought in were able to create a great atmosphere within the group. As well as the players that were previously on the sidelines were warmly welcomed into the 1st team squad and were rewarded for their efforts. With a Cup Final win and a strong finish to the league season.
From afar this must have been tough for the players that were out injured, but it can only help to spur them on for next season. Strength and depth are vital for any team’s success, and the Dons are doing their best to develop this quality. Both in terms of signing new players as well as developing their U23 Squad.
So how can they attack the Top 4? What areas do they need to address this season moving forward?
Last year the biggest problem they had was vs the Top Sides. They Only took 1 point from a possible 24. So, what can they do to address this?
Attacking options – Mollie Coupar
The only negative of what was such as positive season for Mollie, was that she only scored 1 goal vs the big sides in the league.
The only goal came late in an away trip to Oxford on a cold and wet Thursday night. Watching the games, you could see that Mollie was becoming frustrated. MK struggled to break down the stronger sides. So, is it just simply finding a player with quality to unlock the defence?
Mollie is still very young in terms of an experience goal scorer. During the off season she has been working hard within the gym. Developing her explosive strength and power so she can deal with stronger & older defensive players she comes up against. The more games Mollie starts and plays, you can see her tactical understanding is also improving. Such as when to drop off, when to spin in behind and when to engage with her defenders to offer opportunities for players around her to find gaps.
But would she benefit from instead of having quick wide players around her ? A central striker to play off ? Or a Number 10 in the hole that can find her runs and unlock the opposition defence ?
As some of the games it has felt that the striker has been isolated at the top and then marked out of the game with two central defenders. Showing how much the team missed Lucy Wood last year.
Lucy Wood – Lucy in her second season was cut short due to a horrible injury suffered in Exeter. The Leicester City loan player shone brightly in her first season with the Dons and was resigned on loan for last season. Her technical ability on the ball is second to none. Her ability to pick up the ball and drive at the defence is something that the Dons missed last season. Her creativity in the middle and her ability to link up with Mollie was something to note, Coupar and Wood started to create some great chemistry between each other that saw both attackers flying with goals at the start of last season. Charlie Bill will be desperate to get her back into the starting squad, fit and hungry to put to bed last season blues.
This season could be a breakout season for Wood as she is now finally a Don. If she can shine like she is truly capable of it could be a fantastic transfer for the Dons, and many clubs from the Championship could regret not going in for her.
Laura Mitchell – Put in a fantastic season last season. Her energy on the wing was a great asset for the Dons. Her work rate, both attacking and in defence was great to see. Scorning a hat full of goals and provided with some key assist as well as defensive tackles. Can the Welsh winger replicate her fantastic form from last season?
For me personally some of the standout players for the Dons last year was Gemma Biggadike, and her partnership with Rhianne Rush. The two holding midfielders play a vital role in the axis of Bill’s midfield. Biggadike and Rush seem to have a great understanding in the middle of the pitch. One can engage the opposition, and the other dropping back into the defensive line sweeping up and collecting lose balls and putting in challenges creating turnover opportunities. Ready for the Dons counterattack to spring into action what could cause a lot of problems when teams start to get tired.
Leyla O’Brien – Leyla joined the Dons originally on loan from Arsenal and made a great impact in her first game scorning 2 goals and an assist. Before getting a call up to the England development squad. Leyla has the potential to be play a key figure this season for the Dons. During the Dons pre-season, Leyla has shown glimpses of her quality that caught Arsenal’s eye. Her standout goal vs London Bees showed her quality. Cutting inside from the left wing onto her strong foot and firing off a well-placed shot into the top corner of the net. But it’s clear she is a player that needs confidence.
Hopefully with a run in the side and time on the pitch Leyla could have a very strong season for the Dons, and at this level the Dons could have a star player in their ranks.
Defensive Options – Tally Mills and Hannah Warren.
What can we say about these two. Both in terms of senior football experience is still relatively small, but after the injury of Sofia Stovold last season, these two put in several impressive performances and should be praised for how well they did.
Warren started the season as the Dons Left Back and never played as CB at this level but took it like a duck to water. Her partnership with Tally blossomed the more they played together.
Both players are in their early 20’s and both are still developing both in terms of physicality and footballing experience. But now with the addition of Cat Beaver from Oxford in the off season as well as the return of Sofia. Could be vital and strong partnership creating a strong defensive line for the Dons. What is a vital part of any squad challenging for the top 4 and addressing conceding 55 goals in all competitions.
Sofia now back after injury will also be looking to get back into the starting line-up and has started pre-season with a great intensity. Sofia has a great presence within the Dons dressing room and will be looking to show her qualities on the pitch once again. But it is going to be tough, but she has the type of character that Is willing to show the fight, and not just for her place, but also fight for the team.
Competition in the Dons back line up is getting stronger, Charlie Bill now has several defensive options that he can call on ahead of this season.
Chloe Sansom – MK Don’s Women player of the season and influential Club captain after the retirement of Laura Bright. The Dons shot stopper won MK Dons Woman’s player of the season award last year, what was well deserved. Her leadership and determination to success can be clearly seen.
She was clearly hurt from some of the negative performance’s vs the top sides last season. Her competitive nature and her natural desire to demand and expect more from her teammates, will only spur her on for the upcoming season.
Chloe is a fantastic keeper and leader with a high skill set. Looking at her in training this off season, and in match day situations, she constantly puts herself under pressure to preform to the best that she can be. Chloe has taken like a duck to water when it comes to adding the extra pressure on as Captain. Her driving standards, and ability to lead will hold the Dons in good stead moving forward for this season. She wants to win at all costs and hopefully this message will be passed down throughout the squad.
Ahead of the new season we sat down with Manager Charlie Bill to get his thoughts on Pre-Season as well as the upcoming season.
How do you feel has grown and developed during pre-season compared to last season?
“I think the main positive is keeping the majority of this group together which means we didn’t have to bring in lots of players & spend weeks for them to understand our philosophy. We’ve recruited really well in the areas that we needed to. With some big players to come back from injuries who missed pre-season, we will continue to grow. We’ve learnt a lot over pre-season and that’s mainly what it’s for to ensure we are in the best possible position come gameday one.”
What expectations do you put on yourself and the squad ahead of the new season?
“Our main aim is to keep improving in this league, we set the highest standards of ourselves. We finished 5th last season which was a fantastic year but we want to keep pushing on & improve on that finish, points, clean sheets, goals etc. There has been lots of positivity around this group both on and off the pitch and can’t wait to get going!”
How excited are you ahead of the new season?
“Extremely, we have had some tough tests in pre-season to help prepare ourselves for the season ahead. We have one of the toughest tests to start off with this weekend, but a challenge I know the whole group will step up too in order to get those 3 points. The development this group has made in the last 2/3 years has been exceptional and it’s vital we continue to do that”
What message do you have to the fans ahead of the new season?
“Whether you’ve supported us previous seasons or this is your first time, come down and experience some excellent football. We also try to play an exciting brand of football and want to be on the front foot. Tier 3 Women’s football is the best it’s ever been, and every game will be a real test this season, so it will always be worth the money. Where season tickets are priced at just £35 for the whole season”
MK Dons Women vs Oxford United Women
Stadium MK – MK2 2RS
Kick Off – 15:30 pm
Tickets – Adults £5 – U18s £3 – Click Here
Podcast: Game On ! MK DONS FC WOMEN Podcast | Podcast on Spotify or Via – Anchor.fm/mkdonsfcwomen(New Episodes every Friday)
Live Commentary – CW Sports Radio from 15:15 pm (GMT) – For more information please visit https://www.cwsportradio.com/
Images: Christopher Foxwell – For more information visit www.ctfphotography.co.uk/photography