Basement battle begins at Bristol

Luke Ayling's late, unpenalised handball left stadium:mk bewildered in the MK Dons vs Bristol City fixture last season. PNL-150210-123420002
Luke Ayling's late, unpenalised handball left stadium:mk bewildered in the MK Dons vs Bristol City fixture last season. PNL-150210-123420002
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Losing against Bristol City on Saturday will have huge ramifications for MK Dons - it could mean two weeks at the bottom of the Championship.

The Robins currently occupy the basement slot going into tomorrow’s game at Ashton Gate, but with Dons just one point and one place above last season’s League 1 title holders, it’s a ‘winner-takes-all’ type scenario after just nine games.

“People will look at this game as a final because we could go bottom,” said Dons boss Karl Robinson. “But we believe there is little relevance to that yet. We’ll be judged at the end of the season.

“We’re going to put everything into it. If we don’t get the outcome we want, we’re bottom of the league for two weeks. And we’ll have to turn it around against Blackburn.

“It’s the opposite to last season when we could have been going to the top of the table. This is just as exciting as last season was, just for different reasons.

“We believe we can win every week and any game of football. Anybody can beat anybody.

“We deserve to be in this league. Now we’re here, we need to enjoy it and accept all the challenges.

“When you’re institutionalised in League 1, we went to the same places for so long, it could have been a bit of a culture shock, but the players believe they belong here and they believe they’ll stay here - that’s the important thing.

“My players have been outstanding, and I’ll go as far as saying we’re playing some of the best football since I’ve been at the football club. You make one error and you’re punished, but that’s how we’ll learn.”

In the past two seasons, games between Dons and Bristol City, both home and away, have been enthralling exhibitions of football between two closely matched sides. Last season saw Dons narrowly defeated at Ashton Gate, while sharing the points in one of the most exciting 0-0 draws stadium:mk will ever see, even if Dons should have won a late penalty when Luke Ayling’s handball - pictured - went unpenalised late on.

And Robinson isn’t expecting anything different when the sides meet again on Saturday.

He added: “Last year was one of the best games I’ve ever seen here. It was described as a Championship game last season, and it is a Championship game this year.

“Steve Cotterill has done a brilliant job, the stadium is coming along too. It’s our job to go there and compete.”