KARL Robinson admits he is flattered to be linked with another huge job in the Championship, but insists he’s going nowhere.
Leeds United sacked manager Simon Grayson on Wednesday following their 4-1 home defeat to Birmingham City, and once again the Dons manager has been named among the favourites to take over at Elland Road.
Back in November, Robinson admitted his head was turned when Nottingham Forest came calling for his services, but speaking after his side fought for a respectable 1-1 draw with Huddersfield Town at the Galpharm Stadium on Saturday, the boss insists he’s staying where he is.
“It’s the fifth one this year,” Robinson said. “It’s flattering, and I do look at Leeds as one of the greatest in my generation.
“Leeds are one of the biggest clubs in the country. I remember going there with Dons and getting beaten 4-0, and it was spine-tingling just walking out at Elland Road.
“Forest and a number of clubs have come knocking this year, but I’ve stuck to my word and signed a new contract. Certain managers ask for time, get success, and then jump ship.
“I’m going to stay here for as long as I can and get this club where it belongs. If you look at that and say I lack ambition, but I want to be the best one day. I’m a long way from being that. A million miles and many years, but I want to keep learning with good people, good chairman and a fantastic group of fans.”
Last season, the back-to-back fixtures of Sheffield Wednesday at home and Huddersfield away brought with them heavy 4-1 defeats, but it was a different story this time around as Dons picked up two valuable points against their promotion chasing rivals.
And Robinson says their two points from those two League 1 fixtures show how far his side have progressed.
He said: “We look so much stronger than last year. Dan Woodards, Peter Leven and Mark Carrington all played here last year – that shows how much we’ve changed. Aaron Wilbraham and Jermaine Easter also played.
“We’ve moved on leaps and bounds and we have tremendous strength in depth and mental strength too.”
Alan Smith was handed his first start in an MK Dons shirt as he replaced Jay O’Shea in the starting 11. Tom Flanagan also made way, dropping to the bench as Shaun Williams took over alongside Gary MacKenzie, while Darren Potter returned to the centre of the midfield. Deadline day signing James Tavernier took over at right-back.
Making his first appearance for Dons since signing on loan from Newcastle, Tavernier endured a torrid opening 15 minutes against the experienced Danny Cadamarteri.
The Huddersfield man looked to have a speed advantage over the Premier League loanee, and was the main source of attack for the home side, though his crosses were often too deep for hitman Jordan Rhodes to latch onto.
It was a lucky deflection which forced David Martin into the first save of the match as Town began to turn the screw.
Cutting inside onto his left foot, Jack Hunt’s tame effort looked to be bread and butter for the Dons keeper, but a deflection off Williams forced Martin into a full-stretch dive to keep the ball out – MacKenzie mopped up, hoisting the ball away to safety as Dons looked to be hanging on.
Just as it looked like the sides were going to go in level at the break, Dons’ vulnerability at set-pieces once again let them down. A soft free-kick in the centre of the field in stoppage time was lofted into the box and Jamie McCombe rose highest to nod into the top corner, giving Hudderfield a 1-0 advantage going in at half time.
Dons came out with renewed vigour in the second period though and looked by far the better team throughout the half. They had the better of the midfield play, and with Tavernier encouraged forward, he added another attacking threat on the right flank. The full back seemed to have a better understanding of his role in the second half.
And Dons were rewarded for their brilliant start to the second half with an equaliser on the hour mark – though there was an element of luck to it. Gleeson stood over a free-kick on the touchline, nearly 40 yards from goal, and pitched it into the box. But the ball evaded everybody, including keeper Ian Bennett, as it sailed into the top corner for his third goal of the season.
The visitors then felt hard done by when Dean Bowditch laid off to Charlie MacDonald in the penalty area and his quick shot appeared to hit a Huddersfield hand, but referee Graham Salisbury wasn’t moved.
Dons looked the more likely to add to the scoring – the home side looking all at sea in the midfield. The return of Potter gave Dons the stability and direction they missed so dearly in his absence.
Just as the game looked destined to end in a draw, Town clicked into gear in stoppage time. First, Hunt hit the underside of the bar before Arfield’s low shot made it through a sea of bodies and went just wide of the post.
“At the end of the day, it was probably a fair result,” said Robinson afterwards. “From a neutral’s perspective, this was a great advert for League 1. But we want to win everything we do, it’s in our nature, but we walk away with a point. It was fair.
“I thought Darren Potter coming in to midfield showed his class. Gleeson is a different man when Potter plays, he was top drawer. I thought our midfield was excellent.
“Tavernier, only 19-years-old, didn’t look out of place against Danny Cadermateri who has been there, seen it, done it. And he’s quick, strong, and he’s going to get better.”
Skipper Dean Lewington echoed his manager’s words, saying that two points from the last two fixtures will look even better if Dons win their upcoming games.
“When you play teams like Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday, they’re a lot more direct than we are and you have to withstand that initial 20 minutes where they keep coming at you,” he said.
“But it’s two draws, we’d have liked more but we’re looking forward to our next few games and if we win them, it’ll make these two points look very good.”