Dons’ downfall is of their own making

George Baldock
George Baldock

Blame it on nervousness, blame it on more defensive errors, you can even blame it on the boogie - but late goals are becoming an unacceptable occurrence more and more often for MK Dons.

In 2016 alone, Dons have squandered six points in the dying moments of games, blowing leads against Leeds United, Middlesbrough and most recently Huddersfield Town on Tuesday night.

Jonny Williams

Jonny Williams

The ability - or more the inability - to see out a game when holding on to a narrow lead is fast becoming a concern, especially given the precarious position Dons find themselves.

There is potential to gloss over the cracks though. In the three examples of blown leads, Dons have picked up draws when few had tipped them to do anything but lose.

Three points against those sides could turn out to be key when the moving and shaking ends in May, but the frightening prospect of going the season going down to the wire could have been negated with an extra six points in their pockets.

The season would already have an altogether different feel if Dons were to be sitting 12 points clear of the relegation zone, rather than just six.

Following Tuesday’s draw, Robinson lamented his side’s nervousness in the second half, playing a Huddersfield who failed to produce anything of worth in the first half and were down to 10 men in the second half.

Dons’ key failing at stadium:mk on Tuesday was their inability to make their advantage - both in terms of score and on-pitch numbers - count for anything.

Following Philip Billing’s 48th minute red card, Dons reverted to a scared approach seldom seen in their League 1 days.

Gone were all the good things they showed in the first half against Huddersfield: the slick passing, silky footwork in midfield, dangerous attacks, replaced with aimless lumps up-field, stand-offish in midfield and rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights stuff at the back.

To blame inexperience at Championship level, at this stage in the season, can only really be aimed at two players in the squad - Joe Walsh and George Baldock - but neither were the key instigators in the downfall of the second half.

A greater concern is repetition. Repetition of what has been seen all too often this season.

Saturday’s performance against Bristol City was, frankly, hopeless. It was the same at Bolton, it was the same against Brentford. Seemingly, when one player has an off-day, it dominoes into the rest of the squad.

Carrying one poor player for 90 minutes is one thing, carrying six or seven leaves Robinson to cut a forlorn figure on the touchline, able only to make three changes when sometime’s he’d like to change all 11.

Those who follow the Gospel According to Robinson know they have the smallest budget, know many believed Dons would be relegated by this stage of the season and understand the constraints the club is under.

But given the positions they’ve found themselves in, and subsequently squandered, a team worthy of the bottom three is not what Robinson has at his disposal.

Dons may have been tipped for relegation, but it’s clear they are a team worthy of the upper-bottom half at least.

Given their position now, a relegation scrap is only a position they’ll find themselves in if they are to have a series of catastrophes in the remaining 13 games of the season.

But if they do, it’ll be a situation of all their own making, and they won’t have anyone to blame but themselves.