DONS’ hopes of promotion out of League One in 2011 rest on whether or not Karl Robinson can snap up a goal scorer in the January transfer window - and that’s what he will be telling his chairman.
The Dons boss watched his side draw a blank in their 1-0 defeat at Yeovil on Monday, maintaining a dreadful away run which threatens to scupper their chances of making the play-offs.
Dons’ record away from home has been a major headache to Robinson all season - it’s now nine defeats in 11 matches - but even that is now being overshadowed by his latest worry - a lack of numbers up front.
With forwards Jermaine Easter and Aaron Wilbraham seemingly set to depart permanently in the weeks ahead, Dons have been left with only two out-and-out strikers in Sam Baldock and Jabo Ibehre.
And Robinson admitted this week that Wilbraham’s sale to Norwich was out of his hands, but insists he has made it perfectly clear to Dons chairman Pete Winkelman what he requires if his side are to maintain their push for the play-offs.
“Everyone at the club is under pressure to perform, and we pay our strikers to score goals,” said Robinson.
“We will be sitting down with the chairman to discuss what we can do about bringing people in. Plenty of clubs are having a hard time of it lately and we’re no exception. The chairman has been around for long enough to know what we need.”
Baldock and Ibehre have only scored eight goals between them in all competitions this season, with the latter failing to find the net in League One during his 20 appearances.
However, Baldock’s return to the team after a month lay-off will provide a timely boost for Robinson as the striker looks to add to his six goals this term. And the Dons boss insists his front pair are capable of scoring plenty of goals, whoever gets the nod to start up front in his side’s 4-5-1 line-up.
“Whoever holds the ball best for me will start, but if you saw them in training and knew the lads you’d know that both have been giving me everything and have a great attitude,” he said.
“We play with three attacking players behind the one striker, so we need someone to hold the ball up well for the team, and both have played very well.”
Pete Leven leads the scoring charts with six goals in league games, and it’s the midfielders who have helped sustain Dons’ promotion push. Star QPR loan man Angelo Balanta chipped in with three goals before having to undergo ankle surgery which will keep him out until spring.
And Robinson admits his side miss the winger dearly. He said: “We can’t wait to get him back, we’re counting down the days.
“Any side would miss him, he really is a class act and it will be like getting a new signing again when he returns.”
Wilbraham’s departure came shortly after Easter’s switch to Swansea, and took most fans by surprise. Robinson said that the deal was out of his hands - and hinted that a tightening of the purse strings might have been behind the long-serving front man leaving for Carrow Road.
Those two have played their last games in Dons shirts, and another man who doesn’t look likely to feature again is Dons’ marquee signing of the summer, Dietmar Hamann.
The 37-year-old arrived in May last year with high expectations, but it hasn’t worked out for the former Germany international on the pitch, finding the pace of the third tier of English football tough going.
But the boss puts his absence from the side down to his role at the club having changed in the light of Alex Rae’s departure for Notts County.
Robinson said: “He has more coaching responsibilities now, and it would be a lot to ask him to play as well at his age. But if we need him he’s there. He’s fit and can play if called upon.”
Dons don’t have that sort of luxury when it comes those who are in the side to score the goals though.
Like Baldock, Luke Chadwick has also returned to the fold in recent weeks, giving Dons even more attacking options in the middle of the park. But neither could do anything to prevent a ninth loss on the road at Yeovil on Monday as their side missed a chance to move back into the play-off places for the first time since September.
Dons have the worst away record in their division - in fact only Championship side Crystal Palace have lost more on their travels in the Football League.
The defeat at Huish Park was hard to take for Robinson, who made no excuses for his side.
“We were terrible,” he said. “It really is hard to put our finger on why we lose so many games away. We just go away and start to play a different type of game. I was completely devastated.
“It’s not a mental thing, we all talk about it, and still prepare in the best way possible.”
And things aren’t getting any easier on the road for Dons, with a tough trip to Exeter City this Saturday - a side who have only lost twice at St James’ Park this season.
The squad will be spending Friday night in Devon, but will have to be at their best to avoid a nightmare 10th away defeat.