Cup runs can salvage Dons' wayward season

MK Dons beat Oxford United 4-3 in a thriller on Tuesday night to progress in the Checkatrade Trophy
MK Dons beat Oxford United 4-3 in a thriller on Tuesday night to progress in the Checkatrade Trophy

With a league campaign destined for the middle of the pack again, adventures in cup competitions could come to the rescue for MK Dons.

Back-to-back cup wins for Robbie Neilson’s side have cast a little more sunlight over Stadium MK this week, having gone an entire month with victory.

Keith Andrews with the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in 2008

Keith Andrews with the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in 2008

Heading up to Hyde last Friday night, Dons made light work of their non-league FA Cup opponents to win 4-0.

Monday’s FA Cup draw saw them handed an golden opportunity to progress into the third round as they were picked to host Maidstone United - more non-league opposition.

Then on Tuesday, Dons won an epic 4-3 with Oxford United, who have been to Wembley for the last two Football League Trophy finals saw them into the second round undefeated.

The Checkatrade Trophy is much-maligned, even hated, among some football fans, aiming their disdain at the introduction of top flight U21 sides to the competition last year.

But for Dons, the trophy represents a way of salvaging something more from an ailing and already wayward campaign.

Winning the cup in it’s former guise, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, in 2008 was the first piece of silverware picked up by the club, and was quickly followed by the League 2 trophy barely a month later.

Ultimately, the Checkatrade Trophy is a route to a Wembley final, a day out, silverware and something to celebrate. While not many prioritise the competition at this stage though, perhaps Dons should be looking to steal a march on their opponents, fielding full-strength teams when others don’t, in a bid to build up a head of steam to help with the league campaign.

The cups have provided plenty of adventure for Dons in the past.

Beating AFC Wimbledon in 2012 for the first time, beating Manchester United, winning away at then-Premier League QPR - all momentous days.

Out of the Carabao Cup thanks to a strong Premier League Swansea side, Dons can but hope to edge past Maidenhead to pick up a prize draw in the third round of the FA Cup. And from there, who knows.

But with a season looking increasingly likely to be no more than midtable obscurity, it may be a cup run that saves it.