GIANT centre-half Gary MacKenzie came to Milton Keynes with only promotion in mind - and he’ll get his chance.
This Sunday he will be aiming to silence potent Peterborough front man Craig Mackail-Smith again as Dons and Posh get their battle for a place in the League One play-off final up and running.
Since making his debut against Posh in September, the Scot was in and out of the team as he battled to regain full fitness, but since Christmas has been a rock in Dons’ defence.
Dons went down 2-1 at London Road, but MacKenzie scored the all-important winner when the two sides last met at stadium:mk in March. And the defender is determined to get Dons out of League One, past whoever stands in their way.
“I’d love to go up,” said the former Dundee man. “That’s what I came here for - to take this club up and play at a higher level.
“I know a lot of people wrote us off after the cuts and some of the players we lost, and the lads who were bought in were unknowns, but we can hold our heads high.
“Way back when I made my debut against them, I was nowhere near fit enough. I rushed back because I was desperate to play again, but I loved it and I felt we played well there.
“We were unlucky not to get anything from the game. I missed a great chance, but hopefully if I get another one like that I’ll take it this time around.
“We lost to a slack goal at London Road but I liked playing there and even more so at home because I got the winner.”
MacKenzie played a key role when the sides met at stadium:mk, keeping close tabs on Mackail-Smith on the way to Dons’ 1-0 win, and he believes that the lessons learned from that evening will be vital in keeping League One’s top scorer quiet once more.
“We did it last time they came here, so we’d like a bit more of the same again,” he said.
“I thought we gave them a few too many chances though and Dave (Martin) pulled off some good saves, and there were a few good tackles going in.
“But we kept a clean sheet so we know we can do it and hopefully we can limit their chances and nick a couple of goals ourselves.”
With their play-off semi-final up against old rivals Posh, MacKenzie is calling on Dons’ fans to produce a hostile atmosphere for their visitors to play in.
“This is the one the fans wanted. It would have been nice to get them in the final, but this will be a great one for the fans, with a chance to turn out in their numbers and urge us on,” he said.
“Even the difference between getting 11,000 over the 8,000s we’ve been getting makes a big difference, and the fans have been right behind us - especially of late.
“They’ve taken on board the way we play, and I know it can be frustrating for them the way we keep the ball at times - it’s frustrating for us as well - but they get behind us now and we’ll do them proud.”
MacKenzie isn’t convinced that victory in the first leg is all-important in the battle to reach the final at Old Trafford, but with the result coming over two legs, he has high hopes of getting one over on their near neighbours in their own back yard.
He said: “We believe we can go there and get a result. It’s like anything else - if you get a few successes and clean sheets, it breeds confidence.
“We have good feelings about the game there and we’re all really looking forward to it.”