DONS keeper David Martin faces one of the biggest tests of his career this week, but says he’s confident and determined to pass with flying colours.
The 25-year-old is aiming to repeat his heroics of late March when he became one of just four League One goalkeepers to stop Peterborough scoring this season. His clean sheet in Dons’ 1-0 win at stadium:mk was one of 16 this term, and despite Dons losing 2-1 in their previous meeting with Posh at London Road in September, Martin believes his side can edge their play-off tie. And he certainly isn’t nervous.
“When you play football and the whistle goes, you just concentrate on it - so that’s the good thing about it,” he said. “In the build-up you might be a bit more nervous, but I’ve got enough experience now to play my normal game. I’d love to play at a higher level and I think myself and the rest of the players are good enough to play there.”
Posh have scored a remarkable 106 League One goals this season, with hot-shot striker Craig Mackail-Smith leading the scoring charts on 27 while George Boyd has chipped in with 15 - three more than Sam Baldock who leads the way for Dons. But Martin believes that their shut-out against Posh last time out has given them confidence that they can do it again when it matters most.
He said: “When they came down last, we were kept a little more busy than when other teams have come here. Mackail-Smith and Boyd up front made it a tough game, but it shows that we’re capable of beating them. And we finished just two points behind them in the league so we’re going into the game feeling good.
“All the lads and the gaffer would love to go up. At the start of the season we were tipped to either go down or finish just above the relegation zone. And being here shows how well we have gelled.
“We had our teething problems to start, but since Christmas we have come on strong. We are looking at this as a bonus - if we go up then great, but the play-offs are the play-offs. You can’t get too disheartened if we don’t but we definitely think we have a chance. We will give it our best shot.”
Peter Leven was forced out of Dons’ final push for the Championship when he broke his foot in training last week. The midfielder has played an influential role all season and Martin admits that his injury came as a huge shock and blow to the whole squad. And the cruel irony is that he was meant to be rested for Dons’ final game at Oldham in order to keep his fresh for the play-offs.
“He was supposed to be rested on the Saturday, so to do it on the Thursday before was heartbreaking for all of us,” said Martin. “He’s been a great player all season. His set-pieces are second to none and have won us a lot of points this season too. But we have Adam Clayton ready to come in, and people like Chaddy can play in the middle too.”
After 46 league games, just three now stand between Dons and trips to the likes of Leeds, Middlesbrough, Ipswich and Derby next season - not to mention those sides who will come down from the Premier League. But Martin says the key could be to just treat their next two - and hopefully three games - just like any other.
“We’re here for a reason, because of how well we have played this season and we have earned our right to be here with the way we have played since Christmas,” he said. “With it being a derby, it’s great for the fans with all the bragging rights, but when you cross the line, it’s just another game.”