The Thursday Preview: MK Dons Vs. Stevenage

A friend of mine has a huge collection of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight and within those pages, coverage devoted to institutions of which the organ actually approves is limited. Similarly, any word cloud representing The Daily Mail from 1997 onwards would probably throw up the term ‘Blair’ most commonly and copies of fanzines such as Red Issue spend an inordinate amount of time fixating on Liverpool and Manchester City.

As a nation of contrarians, we British are often defined by the other – that which we are not. I once tried to pin down a respected academic on his own political standpoint but he was clearly much happier expounding about what he didn’t approve of. Our website often falls into this pattern with ease – just this week, we have had a few choice words to say about Steve Claridge and if we are yet to offer forth much in the way of strong opinions on Crawley Town’s Steve Evans, our fellow bloggers have not been so reticent.

So despite our self-proclaimed zero tolerance policy for MK Dons, vigilance is required – especially when this particular elephant has suddenly become more than room-sized. In our recent season preview, we included a section on the North Buckinghamshire club, despite having omitted them a year before – but we’ll justify this with recourse to our fellow blogger David Bevan’s more pragmatic position. Besides…if Labour had been less haughty in writing off David Cameron as nothing but a foolish toff, then they may have avoided being jettisoned from power. Know your enemy.

For storm clouds are gathering in League 1 and the clear and present danger is now unignorable. Despite the presence of those ‘massive’ Sheffield clubs and last year’s challengers Huddersfield, Franchise FC were heavily tipped in the Summer and for once, the pundits seem to have known their onions.

If a 10 point start featuring a 4-1 battering of an otherwise tidy looking Cheltenham and 6-2 mauling of suddenly troubled Chesterfield was impressive enough, Tuesday’s extraordinary 4-0 win at Premier League Norwich City arrived like a lightning bolt. Weakened the Norfolk club may have been, but it was still a line up containing the talents of Russell Martin, Wes Hoolahan and David Fox plus new recruit Roberto Ayala and big signing Steve Morison emerging from the bench. Humiliation doesn’t begin to describe it and the fact that ex-Canary Luke Chadwick netted a brace will have made it even tougher to peck over.

But it’s Sam Baldock, linked this week to West Ham and contemptuous of the approaches of Peterborough recently, who has garnered most headlines this August, with half a dozen goals plundered already. A club already primed to feature strongly tinkered little with last year’s near successful formation, despite the loss of Peter Leven, and the main bit of business was to once again secure the services of last term’s successful loanee, Angelo Balanta.

As for Stevenage – does any other club so much resemble a military services line up than these boys? Seemingly the product of one of those boot camps that sees players forced to crawl for 25 miles across rugged terrain and under barbed wire with backpacks and not so much as a torch, the XI is big and bruising – at last Saturday’s Socrates Bloggers Meet up, Gary Andrews of Two Footed Tackle described them as ugly after he had seen the appalling 0-0 draw with Exeter and this together with equally scrappy ties with Chesterfield and Hartlepool have seen the Boro confirm their hard to beat status – they have avoided defeat for 60 games now when scoring first.

They’ll finish comfortably in mid table at least – but it may even be better than that. A 3-1 win at Bournemouth was, according to our best club blog of the year FC Boro, “the night League 1 stood up and listened”. Now, the undeniably capable, if slightly Machiavellian Graham Westley has signed a new two year contract extension that will keep him in the job until 2014 (unless he did what he did to Farnborough). If it’s still not obvious where the goals will consistently flow from, there’s enough collective strength to cause any team in the division a problem and I’ll stick my neck out that they’ll manage a draw in Milton Keynes on Saturday – 1-1.

Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 45 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, A United View on Football and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

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