'Nicholls deserves his place in goal' says Dons boss Neilson

Lee Nicholls
Lee Nicholls

Robbie Neilson felt Lee Nicholls deserved his place in goal as he became the first goal-keeper in seven years to keep David Martin out of an MK Dons starting line-up.

The 23-year-old former Wigan keeper deputised for Martin in the wins over Gillingham and Charlton, but was a surprise inclusion between the sticks against Swindon Town, with Dons' number 1 named among the substitutes.

David Martin

David Martin

And for 90 minutes, it looked as though Nicholls would keep consecutive clean sheets, but Jon Obika's 90th minute strike cancelled out Kieran Agard's first half penalty as the game ended 1-1 at the County Ground.
With Martin out of contract at the end of the season, and Nicholls taking over in goal, talk among some Dons fans suggested it could mean the end of Martin's time at Stadium MK, but boss Neilson insisted Nicholls had earned his place in the starting line-up.

"Lee has done really well in the games he's been in," said the manager. "Dave was out with a back spasm, and only trained in the last few days so I felt it was right to let Lee keep his place. I thought he did very well again today."

While it was Dons 11th point from a possible 15, it should have been so much more. Ed Upson, while Dons' best player on the pitch, missed four golden opportunities to put his side high and dry during the course of the game against Swindon, while Stuart O'Keefe, Harvey Barnes and goal-scorer Agard also missed excellent chances to put the game to bed.

Neilson said: "We created eight, nine, ten great opportunities. We've hit the bar, the post, we've had a lot of one-on-ones and we weren't clinical enough. The positives we can take are that we're creating chances. If our finishing was better, we'd be talking about a 5-0 win. But at 1-0 with a minute to go, we make a mistake with a sloppy pass and it's a goal.

"We were playing a team down at the bottom and they had to win today. We knew at 2-0, it'd be over, but at 1-0, they were chucking everything at us. Even after their equaliser, I knew wed get another chance. Credit to them, they took their chance and it was our fault we didn't win the game - ultimately we did enough to win it but didn't.

"You can't say we weren't the most dominant team, so we don't have to raise our game, we just have to match what we did here, but we have to put the ball in the net. If you watch the game back, we should have scored six goals, easily. That's why we're sitting here with one point. I couldn't ask more from the players.

"I can't ask more from Ed because he's getting in there. If we didn't create anything, we'd have questions to ask, but it happens sometimes. The most important thing is him and Stuart O'Keefe, Harvey Barnes and Ben Reeves to get into the box and they did that. On another day, he might have had more goals, but that will come."

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