Frustration is sign of Dons’ progress

editorial image

It had the potential to be the same old story: a cold, wet Tuesday night, twinned almost seamlessly with a Dons defeat. But it wasn’t the case.

Ultimately, Dons would draw 2-2 with Rochdale - one of their games in hand - but there was a new air around the ground.

Danny Green’s equaliser with six minutes to go wasn’t just met with relief, but almost with expectation from those inside stadium:mk.

It’s amazing what a difference six months can make in football. At the end of last season, there wouldn’t have been many raised eyebrows had the game gone down in the defeats column.

Simple chances missed, silly mistakes made and late goals conceded.

Now though, there’s an expectation, bordering on an obligation for results, especially at stadium:mk.

Goal

Goal

The fact that Karl Robinson and his side were frustrated with a 2-2 home draw against a well-organised, tenacious Rochdale side speaks volumes.

“I think it does, yes,” said Robinson afterwards. “It’s a really good way of putting it.

“We are disappointed after playing really well and only getting a point against a team competing to get into the top six.

“Dean Lewington’s first words to me when I walked down the tunnel were ‘that’s a great point.’

Goal 2

Goal 2

“That automatically changed my focus about how I saw the game.

“No-one is more equipped to tell me how games have been won and lost here at stadium:mk than the man who has played more than 500 games for this club!

“But that’s a really unique way of looking at it.”

It could, and arguably should, have been more for Dons on the night though.

Robinson was forced into two changes in his back four, with Lewington out with a hamstring problem, and Kyle McFadzean suspended, opening the door for Tom Flanagan and Lee Hodson. And they never looked settled.

Will Grigg’s brilliant chip opened the scoring after 19 minutes, but it could have been 3-0 by the time he lifted the ball over Conrad Logan, though the finishing of Carl Baker and Flanagan left a lot to be desired.

The lead though would last barely 60 seconds as the hapless Flanagan diverted Stephen Dawson’s cross into his own net.

Robinson would go on to admit his side’s performance was well below par in the opening 45 minutes, and that was plain for all to see especially in the back line.

The lines of communication between Flanagan and centre-half partner Antony Kay must’ve suffered interference as the rain fell, with the pair battling themselves for the ball at times, and then simply leaving it for the other to mop up. Had Dale’s front line shown a few more teeth, it could have been a bad night for the home side.

But the second half was an altogether different beast. Dons had life breathed back into them again, even if their defensive fragility still showed it’s ugly face from time to time.

Daniel Powell and Benik Afobe changed the face of Dons even more when they came on - the former arguably making a bigger impact than anyone who completed the full 90 minutes in the mere 29 he spent on the left flank.

Reuben Noble-Lazarus was the shining light for Rochdale, and was fully deserving of his goal 14 minutes from time - his 20 yard strike taking a cruel deflection off Hodson on it’s way past the otherwise untroubled David Martin to give Rochdale the lead, and seemingly all three points.

Hodson was sacrificed late on to bring on Danny Green as the ‘not this again’ feel began to rise inside stadium:mk.

Green was in the right place at the right time with six minutes to go to smash home when Afobe’s initial effort was parried by Logan.

But the roar from the crowd wasn’t one of relief - it was one of belief: belief that Dons could go on and snatch another.

While they wouldn’t, and would have to share the spoils with the Lancastrians, the sentiment and anticipation of what this side are capable of is dramatically different.

Robinson may try and keep a lid on expectations and promotion talk among his troops, but out in the stands, it may be harder revolution for him to quell.