DONS are still well in the fight for automatic promotion out of League 1 this season – despite their recent blip, according to Dean Lewington.
The captain scored again on Saturday against Walsall, taking his season’s tally to four as Dons leapt back into the play-off spots with a 2-0 away win.
And with teams around them spluttering their way through October, Dons are still very much in the running for the automatic promotion places he says.
“It’s a difficult ambition that we have,” he said. “It’s not as if we’re Charlton and have their budget, but we have the belief here and I don’t see a reason why not.
“We played Charlton at home recently and it was one of our best performances of the season, which makes you realise there is not too much between us on the pitch. So if they’re top, why can’t we be?
“It’s a realistic ambition. We were there for a brief time, and it shows that it can be done. But everyone has their ups and downs, and I hope we’ve had our blip now and we can get a few more wins.
“Luckily, we’ve been drawing so we’ve been keeping in there, and when you get the three points you make big leaps. Until Christmas and Easter, the aim is just to be in and around the play-off spots.”
Lewington’s free-kick against Walsall helped Dons on their way back to winning ways at the end of a poor month. It was their first win since they beat Notts County on October 1.
But Lewington says their run of games without winning didn’t register with them immediately.
“It was strange,” he said. “A few games before, we hadn’t realised we weren’t winning because we were still playing well.
“But when you see people out and about, they will tell you that you haven’t won in a while, and without realising, it gets on top of you and weighs you down.
“It was nice to get three points against Walsall. If we hadn’t won, we’d have been ninth or 10th, but the win really keeps us in the mix and within striking distance of the top two.
“Apart from Charlton and Huddersfield, everyone else has been having similar form. Hartlepool and Preston did well but they have been losing games.
“We weren’t losing like we were last year, and that was a much bigger deal. This year we have been playing well, but not getting the wins, so it crept up on us and you realise it was six games.
“When you do win, you do feel that sense of relief. We did need to win and it was pleasing to do so.”
Last season, there was hardly anything to choose between sides at the top and bottom of the division. And this season is shaping up to be the same, with just 10 points separating third and 14th place.
But while Charlton and Huddersfield are opening a little gap at the top of the pile, Lewington believes that their budgets are the only difference between Dons, the chasing pack, and the runaway leaders.
“It’s down to money,” he said. “There isn’t much difference between the top teams. We’re all on a similar-ish playing field.
“On any day, any team can beat any other when in other leagues, that’s just not possible. There are some good sides all the way down the table who all think they have a decent shot at the play-offs.”
But for now, Dons must concentrate on this Saturday’s game with Rochdale at stadium:mk. Lewington’s well-struck free-kick at The Banks’s Stadium backs up his manager’s recent praise that he’s the best set-piece taker at the club. But the skipper himself said that sometimes it just doesn’t feel right taking them.
He said: “It was an important goal on Saturday – taking advantage of the red card and it came at the right time. It was nice to score with my left foot too after a couple of headers and a right footer this season.”
“I’ve been practising in training and they’ve been decent. But in games I’ve got the wrong connection and lose confidence in doing it. Sometimes you really fancy it and other times you’re not too sure. On Saturday, everything felt right.”