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Opposition Lowdown: Mike Williamson’s MK Dons

Reading’s FA Cup campaign kicks off with a first-round home tie against League Two side MK Dons. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition. 

Milton Keynes Dons v Notts County - Sky Bet League Two Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images


MK Dons were relegated from League One last season after finishing in 21st place in the league, only one point away from safety. Relegation ended a four-year spell in League One, where they saw their peak finish in the 2021/22 season, finishing third in the league.

The Dons are currently midtable in League Two, sitting in 12th place following six wins, four draws and six losses. Their recent form has been mixed, seeing two wins, one draw and two losses in their last five games, but they do come into the game off the back of two home wins against Bradford City and Swindon Town.

The two sides last faced each other in the 2016/17 season when Reading beat MK Dons on penalties in a second-round League Cup game at the Madejski Stadium following a 2-2 draw. They last faced off in the league the season before, playing out a 0-0 draw at the Madejski, before the Dons beat the Royals 1-0 at Stadium MK.

The boss

Mike Williamson: Williamson was appointed MK Dons head coach in October, taking over from Graham Alexander who was sacked after only 16 games in charge.

He had a 20-year career as a defender, where he had his first real break at Wycombe Wanderers before joining Watford and then Newcastle United, where he played over 150 games. After spells at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Oxford United, Williamson finished his career at Gateshead.

He took up a player coach role with the club in January 2019 but then became player manager five months later. He managed Gateshead for four years and guided the side to promotion to the National League after winning the National League North in 2022.

Gateshead finished 14th in their first season in the National League and finished runners-up in the FA Trophy. Williamson likes his sides to play an attractive possession-based style of football.


MK Dons saw 11 players join the club this summer with 11 also leaving Stadium MK.

Six players joined on free transfers with goalkeepers Craig MacGillvray and Nathan Harness, defenders Cameron Norman and Tommy Smith, midfielder Alex Gilbey and winger Ashley Hunter all joining the club. Left-back Joe Tomlinson (Peterborough United), midfielder MJ Williams (Bolton Wanderers) and forward Ellis Harrison (Port Vale) also signed for undisclosed fees.

Two players also joined on loan, with centre-back Anthony Stewart joining from Aberdeen and midfielder Jack Payne joining from Charlton Athletic.

Those leaving included former Royals Tennai Watson and Zak Jules who signed for Charlton and Exeter City respectively, midfielder Josh McEachran who joined Oxford United, winger Sullay Kaikai who signed for Cambridge United and striker Will Grigg who signed for Chesterfield.

Defender Dean Lewington and midfielder Ethan Robson are both expected to miss out through injury. Goalkeeper Nathan Harness, defender Anthony Stewart, midfielder Ashley Hunter and forward Ellis Harrison are all also injury doubts for the Dons.

Expected line-up

MacGillivray, O’Hora, Tucker, Harvie, Norman, Tomlinson, Gilbey, Williams, Payne, Leko, Eisa

Key player

Mo Eisa: Striker Eisa signed for MK Dons in July 2021, joining from Peterborough for an undisclosed fee. He started his professional career in non-league, playing for the likes of Dartford and Greenwich Borough, before signing for Cheltenham Town in 2017.

Eisa stayed at Cheltenham for one season, scoring 25 goals for the club and picking up a number of the club’s player of the year awards. A move to Bristol City followed, however he only made six appearances for the club before signing for Peterborough. He stayed at The Posh for two seasons, scoring 21 goals.

The 29-year-old has gone on to make 93 appearances for MK Dons since his move, scoring 31 goals, including five in the league this season. The Sudanese striker is a physical presence up front, who is strong at holding up the ball.

One to watch

Jonathan Leko: Forward Leko signed for MK Dons in January, joining from Birmingham for an undisclosed fee. He started his youth career at West Brom and made his professional debut for the club in September 2015.

Leko made 23 appearances for the Baggies and picked up their young player of the season award in 2016. While at the club he also had loan spells at Bristol City and Charlton. He joined Birmingham on a permanent deal in 2020 and made 50 appearances for the club whilst also spending another loan spell at Charlton.

Since his move to MK Dons, Leko has found goalscoring form, scoring eight goals for the club so far. The 24-year-old has represented England at all youth levels from under-16 to under-20. He can play up front or on the wing and is a tricky dribbler with an eye for a long shot.