WITH a place in the play-offs finally secured, Dons boss Karl Robinson will rest some of his key players for their final League One game against Oldham on Saturday.
Second half goals from Sam Baldock and Angelo Balanta in their 2-1 win over Notts County at stadium:mk ensured the season would go beyond May 7, with it now looking likely that a two-legged affair against Peterborough is on the cards in a bid to make it to the Old Trafford final later this month.
And with just a point required to secure fifth place, Robinson admitted that some of Dons’ big names will be rested to ensure they are fit and ready for those all important semi-finals.
“The job is not done yet, because we still have to go to Oldham next week, and be very professional and see who we have fit, and who we can maybe rest.
“I will definitely rest players, but with Luke Chadwick getting injured, I could only have 15 fit players, so I have to be careful of who to play on what could be a difficult pitch.”
A place in the play-offs this season is a huge success for Dons after last season’s disappointment, after they were tipped by many for a mediocre mid-table finish. However, Robinson believes his players have earned their chance at winning promotion to the Championship this campaign.
He said: “I was sat here 12 months ago with the doom and gloom that surrounded us, but now a year later the sun is out and we are going from strength to strength.
“We always had belief in ourselves that we could get out of this league this year. Our first choice was automatic promotion and we are disappointed not to have that, but we are in the play-offs with some very good teams.
“It’s what we deserve. We spoke on the very first day of pre-season and I spoke about application, hard work and endeavour - the components you need.
“They are a hungry bunch, and determined, and there is a winning mentality in them, All we can do now is make sure we prepare properly when the play-offs come around.
“We will train especially for these play-offs, with some players being taken out of training, and having some behind-closed-doors games. You can’t plan to play someone, everyone in there are very good teams. All we can do is make sure we prepare properly when the play-offs come around.
“We’ve started preparing and we are there now so we can start implementing those plans.”
The injury to Chadwick, picked up after Sam Sodje’s awful two-footed challenge in the first half at stadium:mk, was the only black-spot to come out of the game against Notts County - though the manager couldn’t understand how the defender remained on the pitch.
However, he was pleased with the way his side bounced back from two defeats over the Easter weekend.
He said: “The tackle was an absolute disgrace. It’s a two footed-lunged from behind. I can’t see how the referee hasn’t seen it, but Luke fell on his shoulder and we’ll have to see how it is in the next few days.
“When the squad is this small, I can’t take any chances with players if they might not make it for the play-offs.
“I always felt we had another gear. We weren’t ruthless enough. I felt comfortable, and even more so when with five minutes to go I was told that Leyton Orient had been beaten 3-0 by Tranmere!”
Chadwick’s half-time replacement, Balanta, lifted the game for Dons giving them a new creative edge going forward and added to the pace already in the attack from Keanu Marsh-Brown, Daniel Powell and Baldock.
However, Balanta could be playing his last game for Dons in the play-offs, and Robinson remained tight-lipped, but cautiously optimistic about keeping the QPR youngster next season.
“I’ve never hidden the fact that I’d love to keep Balanta,” he said. “But he’s QPR’s player. We have to make sure we do everything in our power to keep him next year.
“I love the boy - he’s a match winner, but so are players like Keanu, Powelly and Sam - we have some great players here.”
Saturday’s game against Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park is the last game of the scheduled League One season. And while the Latics have nothing but pride to play for in their final game of the season as they sit 16th in the table, they will prove hard to break down after their dogged 0-0 draw at stadium:mk in February.