Robbo: Promotion preferred to cup run

GOAL: Dean Bowditch fires Dons ahead in last Saturday's FA Cup third round tie at home to QPR.
GOAL: Dean Bowditch fires Dons ahead in last Saturday's FA Cup third round tie at home to QPR.

IT may be one of the biggest nights in the club’s history, but boss Karl Robinson isn’t getting carried away with the hype surrounding Dons’ FA Cup third round replay with Queens Park Rangers tonight (Tuesday).

Heidar Helguson’s late equaliser at stadium:mk denied Dons their first ever appearance in the fourth round after Dean Bowditch’s second half opener.

In truth, Dons should have comfortably seen off their Premier League opposition, out-playing them throughout in front of a capacity crowd.

But with a mouth-watering home clash against Chelsea awaiting the victor, it’s still all to play for in front of the TV cameras at Loftus Road.

However, it hasn’t been ideal preparation ahead of the game for Dons, with Saturday’s League 1 game against Carlisle called off and opportunities on the training pitches also limited because of the freezing conditions.

But despite the romance involved with an FA Cup run, Robinson isn’t pinning his season on winning the replay.

“It’s big but it means nothing if we don’t get promoted at the end of the season,” he said. “It’s nice to use the words Premier League as often as we have been recently because it’s an incredible league.

“We haven’t been able to work on our shape in training because the pitches were frozen and they’ve changed since we last played them.

“We have done video presentations, we’ve had meetings about them and we’ll talk again tomorrow. The players say they want to play higher and this is their opportunity to prove they can.

“We’re excited but there is an element of nerves there. We’re not going there to make the numbers up, we’re there to put in a performance and get the victory.

“But we’re just looking forward to it now. We’ve got the chance to show we’re a good football team.”

Dons’ former away attendance record is 2,005, coming at Peterborough’s London Road last season for the second leg of the play-offs. And it looks like Dons will break that away attendance record at QPR, with 1,870 tickets already sold and 800 left on the turnstiles.

And coming off the back of the record-breaking 19,506 at stadium:mk for the original tie, Robinson is delighted that his side are beginning to attract more and more to watch them.

He said: “It shows that the football we’re playing is having a feel-good factor. There is a buzz about the town now and you see people walking around with our merchandise on – you didn’t see that two years ago.

“The attendances are creeping up, and the prouder the fans are the more the attendances are going to increase.

“But we’re asking for more tickets, which is great. It’s another first for us, and we’re very proud of our achievements.”

Queens Park Rangers are under new management since the sides last met with Neil Warnock sacked less than 24 hours after the 1-1 draw at stadium:mk, and former Fulham boss Mark Hughes hired as his replacement.

But Hughes’ reign didn’t get off to the best of starts as he watched his new charges lost 1-0 to Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon.

Robinson said: “I watched their game twice trying to work out their different styles. There was differences to their shape and style and their way of playing, but hopefully we’ve seen enough within that game that will give us an opportunity to plan and prepare.

“Mark Hughes does not leave any stone unturned. There’s a reason why he’s finished in the top 10 in the Premier League with teams like Fulham and Blackburn.”

After the disappointment of Saturday’s postponed game with Carlisle, chairman Pete Winkelman said he’s had little time to look forward to the clash.

But that with the Carlisle debacle put to bed for now, he can finally allow himself time to enjoy the build-up to one of the biggest nights in the club’s history.

He said: “We can finally start looking forward to the game. It’s our adventure and it really doesn’t matter what the result is.

“If we can get the home tie with Chelsea, wow! It doesn’t get much bigger than that and it’ll be hugely important for the development of football in Milton Keynes.

“But we’re up against a Premier League side with a new manager looking for his first win at the club.

“I don’t know what their wage bill is in comparison to ours, but we can only go there and do our best.

“What’s brilliant about football this year is that we can all go down there with a bit of hope that we can get a result, even if on paper it’s a ridiculous thing to think!

“We’ve looked good against Premier League sides recently, and I’m looking forward to it.

“I really don’t care what the result is – I want the pressure off the players and for them to go out there and play with abandonment, I want Karl to enjoy himself against Premier League opposition.

“But then we’ve got to get back to the proper business of Notts County away next Saturday.

“Having missed the game against Carlisle, that game becomes all the more important because we need the points.”