Lasse Sorensen was picked out for praise by MK Dons manager Russell Martin as the Stoke City youngster catches the eye out on loan.
Michael O’Neill had been in two minds about allowing 21-year-old midfielder Sorensen out this season after keeping him with the first team squad through the summer.
But the arrival of John Obi Mikel meant he could afford to send the Denmark youth international into League One to pick up regular match experience – even if Sorensen then had to fight for his place in the starting XI.
Sorensen has been increasingly influential over the last few weeks since a man of the match turn in an FA Cup second round win at Barnet.
And he was a central figure again in a 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day which puts MK 16th and within touching distance of the top half.
Martin told the MK Citizen: “I’m really pleased for Lasse, he was really good. I asked him to focus on his defensive duties which he did excellently. When you focus on one part of your game, the rest of it comes together. The energy he has is great and he showed some calmness and composure which was great for the team.
“With young players, you have moments you can brush up on or moment when your decision making isn’t quite consistent but on the whole, he was really good today. He was important, and both he and Andrew Surman helped us keep a clean sheet.”
Sorensen has now 22 appearances this season, including 15 starts, and has scored once – in a 6-0 battering of Norwich under-21s in the Football League Trophy.
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His Stoke teammate Tom Edwards was back in the Fleetwood Town side against Crewe after three weeks in the treatment room – and set up the goal for Wes Burns in a 1-1 draw at Gresty Road.
Assistant manager Clint Hill said: “We put Wes back in the front line to try to use his pace behind their back line. We thought they would be undone by his pace. It was a great ball by Tom Edwards and he managed to toe-poke it in.
“We had a couple of half-chances after that and then Crewe put us under pressure with a few crosses. The lads dealt with that but were undone by a poor performance by the referee.”
Edwards has now made a dozen appearances for Fleetwood, who sit 10th and three points off the play-off places.