HEAD-TO-HEAD: Dons and Oxford to lock horns for the first time

Samir Carruthers
Samir Carruthers

Karl Robinson says people have underestimated how tough a start Dons have had in their return to League 1.

In their opening seven matches, Dons have played four of the current top six, and in Oxford on Saturday, take on another of the newly promoted sides.

And after an unconvincing start, Dons find themselves 15th in the table but Robinson feels people have been quick to criticise his side.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: MK Dons vs Oxford United at the Citizen’s MK Dons Stats Centre

“People underestimate how tough our start was,” he said. “We’ve played two promoted teams and four of the top six, so it has been very difficult.

“But we’ve got to accept that challenge but now we have to concentrate on the job in hand.”

Saturday will be the first league meeting between the two sides, though they met in a friendly back in 2011. That day, Asa Hall scored the only goal at the Kassam Stadium, but the result was overshadowed by an injury for Mathias Doumbe which ruled him out for several months.

Michael Appleton took over the club back in 2014, replacing former Dons assistant manager Gary Waddock. After establishing himself with a 13th place finish in League 2, Oxford stormed to promotion last season, finishing as runners up to Northampton. United also went to Wembley, but lost in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final to Barnsley.

They’ve taken well to League 1 and after beating bitter rivals Swindon last time out, Robinson feels his Dons side should be wary of the threats Oxford possess.

He said: “Michael Appleton has done an amazing job. There are a lot of good things happening there, and they’re coming off a huge derby win last Saturday. They’ll come here seeing it as a similar challenge.

“John Lundstram is one of the best midfield players in the league, and we’ve tried to sign Liam Sercombe plenty of times. It’s a very exciting midfield three they’ve got there, and they’ve really recruited well. We know we’ll be in for a tough afternoon.

“We have to get our defence right, and we can start to turn our focus on how we can exploit them.”

READ MORE: Baldock pushes friendship aside ahead of Oxford clash

One man familiar with the Oxford side is George Baldock, who spent a year at the Kassam Stadium on loan before being recalled to Dons in January.

Robinson though admitted he hadn’t asked Baldock for any advice when it came to preparing for the visit of Oxford, saying: “It’s unfair to ask players that. Michael Appleton is a top manager, so he knows how to play against George, but we don’t think they’ll come here with the same game plan George might know. But if I had to ask a player about how to play against a team, I probably wouldn’t be doing my job as a manager. We can go to him and ask and have him confirm certain things.”