LEAGUE position means nothing at this stage of the season according to Karl Robinson after he saw his Dons side rise into the play-off positions with a routine 2-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers, writes Toby Lock.
Second half goals from Daniel Powell and Jabo Ibehre comfortably saw off Rovers, completing a hectic 48-hours for the club which saw three players leave and one come in.
Rowan Vine’s loan transfer from Championship leaders QPR was completed just in time for him to make the substitutes’ bench, while Sam Baldock picked up another injury against Exeter last time out, ruling him out of proceedings.
After a quiet opening period at stadium:mk, Dons began to assert their authority on the game, playing a high line up the pitch and creating chances at will.
Ibehre, who scored his first league goal of the season the previous weekend at St James’ Park, was full of confidence and saw his bicycle kick go narrowly over the crossbar.
Powell also had three efforts cleared off the line, while Lewis Guy had two crosses zip across the face of goal and a decent shout for a penalty turned away as the sides went in level at the break.
But it took just 20 seconds of the second half for Dons to finally break down the Rovers defence and take the lead. Ibehre’s powerful run to the byline saw him cut back to find Powell on the edge of the area, and he fired a controlled right-footed strike into the net for his second goal of the season.
Despite Dons’ pressure, their lead was nearly cut when Gary MacKenzie’s loose touch cannoned off Enoch Showunmi’s shin, almost allowing the Rovers striker through on goal, but the deflection was a heavy one and easy for keeper David Martin to collect.
Dons thought they’d doubled their lead when a clever Powell flick found Guy in space and he fired past Tony Warner into the net, but he was narrowly offside and his effort was scrubbed off.
Vine readied himself on the touchline and soon replaced Guy just past the hour as Dons switched to a 4-4-2 formation to get a second goal and kill the game off.
And the goal came shortly afterwards through the in-form Ibehre with his wonderful solo effort. Collecting a bouncing ball on the edge of the area, he shrugged off the challenge of Ash Taylor, turned his back on goal, took a few strides, and shot on the turn, giving Warner no chance.
Tranmere tried in vain to get back into the game - Showunmi saw his header tipped over the bar by Martin, and the keeper was called into action again after Aaron Cresswell’s long range effort made it through a throng of players - but the home side never really looked likely to concede.
Despite moving into the League One play-off spots for the first time since September, Robinson was quick to downplay his side’s position.
“Let’s not get carried away. It was a hard game, but we deserved the win,” he said.
“We don’t care (about league position) - not at this stage. We know where we want to be, but it doesn’t mean anything at this point. We don’t look at anything other than the team we’re playing, and then the team after that.
“I want us to be tagged as the best football team in the league and that’s my objective. If you play good football, you win more matches, and hopefully we can have this conversation in May.”
The manager revealed how impressed the Tranmere team were with his side’s performance, but felt that a 2-0 scoreline flattered the visitors.
“I think we should have scored more,” he said. “Les Parry and his defence came to me after the game and said what a good team we are.”
And Robinson also took the time to praise man of the match Ibehre. He said: “He’s getting better and better but there’s a lot more to come from the big man. He has two in two but I’m asking for more from him. “
Dons will take on Plymouth Argyle at home on Tuesday night, before facing four away trips on the bounce, starting with Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday.