MK Dons v Middlesbrough, Tuesday 9th February 2016, 7.45pm

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The second game of my UK visit was the Boro’s trip to Milton Keynes. I know, Franchise FC and all that. To be honest though, it wasn’t a difficult decision for me as to whether I should go or not. It shouldn’t have been allowed, we all know that, but lots of stuff happens that I don’t agree with and if I boycotted everything that I disapproved of then I’d rarely leave the house.

The actual dilemma facing me on this occasion was whether I should watch the Youth team at home instead. In an infuriating bit of re-arranged scheduling, somehow the Boro had managed to have their first team playing on the same night that the Under 19s were taking on Dinamo Kiev at the Riverside in a Champions League last sixteen game.

Yes, Champions League. Somehow we’d won the Kiddie Premier League the season before and then managed to progress to the last sixteen of the Champions League. If Stadium MK hadn’t been a new ground for me then I suspect I’d have watched Harry Chapman and his mates instead.

It’s a pity it wasn’t a two-legged tie as I’d have liked to seen an away leg. I visited Dinamo’s ground a few years ago when Paul and I called into Kiev to see a McCartney concert on the way back from Euro 2008. It looked a bit run-down at that stage and I understand that they got a nice new one in time for their turn hosting the European Championships four years later.

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The Kiev concert was pretty good, despite the rain early on. Apparently there were 350,000 people there. A bit like the Port Vale game at Hartlepool in ’86 I suppose. The big open-air square was a far cry from the much smaller venues that I’ve seen McCartney play since, although in none of those other places did anyone rent me a rat for the purposes of placing on my head for a photo. It’s all the rage in Ukraine apparently.

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And so to Mk Dons. I drove down with Tom and his mate Jones. I’ve no idea why so many of his friends get called by their surname. You’d think they’d all gone to Eton. Although I doubt that any of them have the foggiest about what fun you can have with a pig’s head.

There were a lot of average speed cameras on the M1. So many that I was regretting not having given my Australian driving licence to Hertz to avoid the points.

Despite the speed restrictions we were still there earlier than I’d expected. So early that the gates weren’t open. I bumped into Kirk and Esky outside the ground. I used to play football with them and whilst I occasionally see Kirk at games I hadn’t spoken to Esky for about ten years.

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Stadium MK was quite impressive, although as we stood in the back row all game, we didn’t benefit from the padded seats. I wasn’t drinking so I can’t comment on the quality of the beer, but the Concrete Cow pie tasted okay.

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I was surprised by how few fans MK Dons had. It seemed as if we’d brought more than were in the rest of the ground. I wondered how worthwhile the whole experiment was. Maybe it takes a few years for the kids who grow up with the team to start filling the ground, although if it’s as sparse as this every week I doubt many kids would ever be too excited by the prospect of going to the match.

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As with the Blackburn game the previous weekend we were poor. Rhodes started on the bench to the disbelief of most people there and going a goal down early on didn’t improve the mood of the fans. I thought Stewy Downing was a bit ‘hollywood’, with too many unnecessary outside of his foot passes. His strength lies in keeping it simple, even if it doesn’t immediately catch the eye.

There was a fair bit of criticism of Karanka as the game went on and I suspect that had Rhodes not scored that injury time equaliser there would have been a lot more disquiet on the way out.

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The drive north was quieter and we were home by two in the morning. The last-gasp point had enabled us to overtake Hull at the top, but it seemed more like another two dropped than one gained.

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