Having dispatched the Pilgrims of Plymouth with consummate ease in the EFL Cup First Round, Reading's Second Round opponents are a side with which we have very little history in League 1 Milton Keynes Dons.
Having only been formed in 2004, after Pete Winkelman's decision to relocate Wimbledon FC to nowhere near Wimbledon, it is unsurprising that competitive fixtures between the two clubs number at just two, both played last season after the Dons were promoted to the Championship for the first time in May 2015. Those fixtures, of course, yielded no goals for Reading despite dominating both matches, yet the Dons came out on top at Stadium:MK in January by a solitary Joe Walsh goal which proved to be in vain as a the franchise finished 23rd in the division and were comfortably relegated, 10 points behind 21st place Rotherham.
There are no cup matches to analyse between the clubs, but suffice to say a similar result to that achieved by MK Dons when they last played a League Cup match against a side managed by a Dutch manager would be welcomed - the Dons succumbing 6-0 to Ronald Koeman's Southampton last season thanks to two goals each from Jay Rodriguez, Sadio Mané and Shane Long. By contrast, the defeat to Southampton was entirely at odds with the previous occasion a Dutch-managed side were entertained in Milton Keynes in the League Cup when Louis van Gaal was given a very rude awakening to cup football in England as the Dons thrashed Manchester United 4-0 thanks to two goals each from Will Grigg and Benik Afobe.
The two matches between the two clubs were both thoroughly forgettable affairs, however the goalless draw at the Madejski in August 2015 stands out as marginally the most interesting to me if only because it amounts to the only positive result we have gained against the Dons. The match itself bore very little goalmouth action as Steve Clarke's Royals camped in the Dons' half yet couldn't find the breakthrough. In fact, it was the Dons that came closest to breaking the deadlock as Simon Church hit the post just before half time when it looked easier to score. Dons ‘keeper David Martin saved efforts from Olly Norwood twice, Hal Robson-Kanu, while Orlando Sa searched in vain for his first Royal's goal and had a header ruled out for offside, but 90 minutes toil rendered precious little to write home about. MK Dons defended well throughout and the result left them in the playoff positions on seven points, but the result was put into context by the fact the Dons picked up only 32 points from their remaining 42 matches.
By contrast, just to emphasise the disparity between the Championship Dons and the best team the division has ever seen, in 2005/06 Reading reached 39 points by 1 November.
They Played For Both Teams
In the 12 years since the formation of MK Dons there has never been a transfer between the two clubs, however there are a handful of players that have played for both clubs. Perhaps best known to Reading fans is Simon Church who was a product of the Royals Academy and who scored 24 goals in 122 appearances. Church, as is the way with Reading these days, spent plenty of time on loan at various clubs with Crewe Alexandra, Yeovil Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Leyton Orient all giving him game time, but for all of his appearances Church never quite looked the part at Championship level. It was Steve Coppell who gave Church his first appearances for the Royals, coming on as a sub in the FA Cup defeat to Cardiff in 2009 before his full debut in the playoff second leg defeat to Burnley.
His best season in a Royals shirt was his breakthrough year as Brendan Rodgers gave him his first proper crack at first team football, while after him Brian McDermott persisted with Church and a season's perseverance with a raw player was rewarded with 10 league goals in 36 appearances, plus two memorable FA Cup goals against Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion. The manner of the performances Church put in, in tandem with some of the goals he scored against the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Preston North End suggested there was more to come from a developing player, however a lack of consistency and goals over the next two seasons hindered his chances and, despite being a key member of the playoff and Championship winning squads of 2010-2012 he made no appearances in the futile Premier League battle against relegation, his solitary appearance that season (and ultimately final appearance for Reading) coming in the defeat to Arsenal in the League Cup.
Having said that, Church weighed in with some memorable goals including the late winners in the 1-0 victory over Ipswich Town, as well as the 4-3 wins over Doncaster Rovers and Nottingham Forest. In 2011/12, Church notched twice perhaps most memorably in the 3-0 win over West Ham United on his birthday in December, his feats very much overshadowed by Jimmy Kebe's "sockgate". However, despite the memories, Church failed to make a single Premier League appearance in 2012/13, and was released at the end of his contract having made his final Royals appearance in the 7-5 defeat to Arsenal in the League Cup.
And so it was that the Welshman ended up at The Valley, Charlton, signig a two-year contract with the Addicks. Church made 63 appearances over two season, however the goals failed to materialise with the regular football offered by Chris Powell, just the 10 strikes over his two years, a record that was unlikely to win over the Charlton faithful and the player was released at the end of his contract. Karl Robinson came knocking as a result, and Church signed another two-year contract this time in north Buckinghamshire.
Once again, however, consistency and a lack of goals has hampered his time in Buckinghamshire, as just 13 appearances yielded three goals and the player was loaned to Aberdeen in January as Derek Adams sought to bolster his squad for their gallant bid to usurp Scottish giants Celtic from the top of the Scottish Premier League. A much better return of six goals from 13 games endeared Church to the Scottish Dons' faithful, however it wasn't enough to revive his MK Dons career as he was informed he was free to leave the club this summer after the record signing of Kieron Agard. At the time of writing, Church appears to be on the verge of sealing a deal with Eredivisie club Roda JC Kerkrade to begin a new chapter in his career in Holland.
Leaving aside the mere fact they exist, given the paucity of history for the Dons there is no discernible grudge moment on the pitch between our two clubs. However, cockiness displayed by Dons "fans" at the Madejski last season bordered on the downright ridiculous as chants of "who the f**king hell are you"and "no-one likes us" amongst others echoed from the away end. Millwall they are not, but even Millwall supporters, like supporters of every club in the country, have earned their right to having a chip on their shoulders by virtue of longevity of existence, promotions, relegations, and continuity of support. MK Dons "fans" haven't, and should wind their necks in accordingly. We know they won't of course as they consider themselves the equal of other supporters, as if 12 years of existence earns them that right of status. It really doesn't.
Fact, Interesting or Otherwise
Struggling here. It seems downright bizarre that MK Dons matches should be policed by Thames Valley Police, given Milton Keynes is fully 30 miles from the Thames at its nearest point as the crow flies (somewhere near Marlow).
Well I did say I was struggling...!!