The EFL League One season is now in full swing, with surprise pace-setters and false starters aplenty. But this week, we get a real taste of last season, in what could be a fascinating tie.
Last seasons League Two champions Lincoln City travel to face their fellow promoted side Milton Keynes Dons, in a game that could determine just how much they have both improved over the summer.
Story behind the game
The visitors go into this game having made the best possible start to their season. Danny Cowley's Lincoln have won all three of their league games as well as an EFL Cup match, all without conceding a goal. With their most recent victory being a 4-0 drubbing of struggling Southend United. Meanwhile Paul Tisdale's Dons have had a mixed start, winning one, losing one, and advancing in the cup on penalties against rivals AFC Wimbledon.
Both sides have recent experience of one another, having faced off in the fourth tier last season. The Imps took all six points in their two clashes, ultimately proving vital, as they finished six points above the Dons to win the league. Whilst the hosts will be looking for their first win over their opponents since April 2008, when they themselves won the League Two title.
A win would help to prove that MK Dons have grown as a team since last season, whilst victory for Lincoln may raise the volume of whispers of a realistic promotion push.
Tisdale has options to choose from, and may tinker with his side after a defeat last weekend. The likes of Rhys Healey and David Kasumu could be considered. With the only sidelined player being Jordan Moore-Taylor, who is still a way off a return to first team action.
Lincoln manager Cowley has a mostly fit squad, with the only two players still on the treatment table being midfielders Lee Frecklington and Tom Pett. The line-up may be altered slightly however, with it being a midweek game, so fans can expect potential changes to their attack, where they have more depth.
(3-4-1-2) Nicholls, Poole, Martin, Cargill, Williams, Houghton, Kasumu, Lewington, Boateng, Agard, Healey
(4-2-3-1) Vickers, Eardley, Bolger, Shackell, Toffolo, Bostwick, Morrell, Anderson, Payne, Andrade, Akinde
Kieran Agard v Jason Shackell
MK Dons will be hoping that frontman Kieran Agard can repeat his heroics of last season, which saw him bag 22 goals in all competitions. He lost a strike partner in Chuks Aneke over the summer, but still has plenty of support, so should be an obvious threat for them. Aiming to prevent his impact tonight will be stand-in captain Jason Shackell, who returned from suspension at the weekend, putting in a commanding performance and even getting himself a goal.
George Williams v Bruno Andrade
Also aiming to make an impact will be Lincoln's Portuguese winger Bruno Andrade, who is yet to start a league game this season, but may be given the chance here, with this being a midweek game. He scored the decisive goal the last time these two side met in April, and will hoping to do the same again. The man tasked with stopping him is full-back George Williams, who is now in his fourth season with the Dons. He was absent from their previous meeting, so will be hoping he can be the difference this time around.
What the managers have said
Paul Tisdale knows his side can do better than their defeat to Wycombe Wanderers, and told the club's media that they will use it as a platform for growth. He said:
“We've got a tough one on Tuesday, and then Saturday at home.
“We've got our energy, but we're also finding out about the league, and finding our feet.
“We'll learn quickly, and I'll learn quickly.”
Meanwhile, Danny Cowley spoke to the Lincoln's media, insisting that their opponents should not be taken lightly. He said:
“They've got an unbelievable playing squad, if you look at the depth they've got, and the competition for places. We understand the magnitude of the challenge.
“Paul Tisdale is a very intelligent manager, tactically astute, always looks to throw a curve-ball.
“We'll obviously prepare for that, but we're very respectful of MK Dons. And we look forward to the challenge ahead.”