Dons are learning the hard way

Blackburn Rovers midfielder on loan from Sunderland, Jordi Gomez (14)  scores the winning goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Blackburn Rovers and Milton Keynes Dons at Ewood Park, Blackburn, England on 27 February 2016. Photo by Simon Davies. PSI-1619-0063
Blackburn Rovers midfielder on loan from Sunderland, Jordi Gomez (14) scores the winning goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Blackburn Rovers and Milton Keynes Dons at Ewood Park, Blackburn, England on 27 February 2016. Photo by Simon Davies. PSI-1619-0063

Dons need to change their mentality in every aspect as they continue to adjust to life in the Championship.

Head of Coaching Richie Barker has watched on as late goals have earned, but also cost Dons points in recent weeks.

Karl Robinson and Richie Barker give orders from the sidelines.

Karl Robinson and Richie Barker give orders from the sidelines.

Sitting three points clear of the drop zone after Jordi Gomez’s 93rd minute free kick secured a 3-2 win for Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, Dons are right back in the relegation dog fight.

And having also let slip points to Middlesbrough and Huddersfield during February, Barker feels Dons are learning what not to do the hard way.

He said: “When I look back to when I was 20, I wasn’t getting these things either, like picking up the second ball after set plays, or game management, the importance of running down the clock.

“Conceding late goals is sometimes down to naïvety, and that’s not just down to the young players. We’re a fairly young squad, and some have to learn fairly quickly. We’re learning the hard way at the moment.

“It’s not always technical or tactical mistakes, it’s not the same thing every week. Unfortunately, we’ve got a group of young players who are playing their first or second season of first team football. It’s new to a lot of them. We’re a football club who produces younger players and gives them the opportunity. But with that brings issues like concentration and things that are new to them, and those issues have been punished recently.”

Having done from winning and scoring freely last season, promotion to the Championship has come as something of a culture shock, with Dons picking up just eight victories from 34 games in this campaign.

But Barker insists Dons cannot keep harking back to their League 1 days and recognise they are a Championship side now.

He said: “We need to stop coming away and saying ‘that wouldn’t have happened last year.’ No, it wouldn’t, but we keep saying it. It’s important we get through this year and get used to the Championship level.

“It’s something we all have to get our head around. The gap between each division is getting bigger because of the finances. Anyone who gets promoted will probably struggle to go up again like they could before. You’ll rarely see that now unless there are some major investors. Over the last 10 years, everyone has wanted to be in this league, and now we are, we have to stay here.

“Last year, when we were three or four up late in the game, we probably made the same mistakes. But it shows the concentration levels that are needed. Even 2-0 up in this league, it only takes two shots. It can turn either way and it has done a few times, so we can’t get too down about it.

“It’s fine margins at this level. We’re disappointed to be drawing at home to Middlesbrough, or losing to a 93rd minute free kick at Blackburn. It shows how hard this club has come. In the majority of games, we’ve been in it. We just need a little bit of luck coming our way.”