MK Dons’ most dank and depressing performance of the season could not have come at a more useful time for manager Karl Robinson.
With just four days before the transfer window slams shut once again, the signs were plain for all to see on Saturday as they were given a lesson in League 1 football by rivals Peterborough.
Looking toothless in the attacking third, Dons need something special from the flanks, a quality wide man, an x-factor, and they need it desperately.
Despite showing glimpses of positivity this season, George C Williams and Daniel Powell haven’t delivered well enough, and that was plain to see against Posh. Powell, playing with his head down, struggled to see the runs made by Samir Carruthers and Nicky Maynard left unmarked, while Williams has struggled to remain in games since returning to the club on loan from Fulham.
Pressure is also mounting on Maynard, still without a goal this season, booed off against Peterborough and losing the faith of those in the Cowshed.
With the attacking threats of Chuks Aneke and Kieran Agard both injured, Robinson could perhaps have overlooked any short-term issues, knowing he had two men sidelined. Agard’s debut was spectacular as he delivered a brace against Millwall, and soon enough, Robinson will be blessed with an abundance of talent vying to play in the attacking quartet. However, the worst performance of the season showed he cannot afford to wait for ‘soon enough.’ He needs quality, and he needs it immediately.
There is very little meat left on the bones at the club at the moment. With just about two players for every position, give or take a round peg for a hexagonal hole, or indeed an inexperienced but promising teenager, Dons have the numbers to survive a season. But surviving isn’t what Dons want to do - they want to bounce back to the Championship, and the squad in its current guise isn’t showing that potential.
Now down to 12th in League 1, with a poor home record and two defeats in their last three, the comfortably second best nature of their loss to Peterborough was reminiscent of their Championship season: after going behind, they never looked like getting anything from the game.
And watching the game back, the problems will be clear for Robinson and his recruitment team to see. But while their struggles in the transfer market have been well-documented this summer, they know now the time to solve the problems with the squad is finite.
And if Wednesday night isn’t a late one, none of them will have done their job properly.