HAT-trick hero Sam Baldock believes that Dons can beat anyone in League One after his goals saw off Colchester United 3-1 on Saturday.
Baldock, who celebrates his 22nd birthday today (Tuesday), has scored five goals in his last three appearances since returning from the ankle injury that ruled him out since early January.
And breaking through the Colchester defence on three occasions, he showed that there were no signs of the injury hampering his game.
He said: “The medical staff really did a good job getting me back and have done as much as they can to try and prevent it happening again.
“I think the little break has done me good - I’ve felt good in the last three games, and scored my first senior hat-trick.
“I said to Rowan Vine after five or so minutes that I was feeling good about the game. We had a lot of space, and we are so confident in midfield at the moment.
“We were playing the ball up from the back and it’s really enjoyable being out there when we play like this, and all I have to do is put the ball in the back of the net.”
His first senior hat-trick, coming in the second half at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, downed play-off rivals Colchester to hand Dons their fourth win on the trot, after seeing off fellow play-off rivals Charlton, Rochdale and run-away league leaders Brighton.
And the streak has given Dons great momentum ahead of the crunch clash with free-scoring Peterborough next Monday, a game that Baldock believes his side are well capable of winning.
“I think on our day, we’re the best team in the division, which we showed against Brighton,” said Baldock. “Until we went down to 10 men, I thought we were in control of the game.
“I think we’ve now got the confidence to go out on the pitch and play our way. The manager and John Gorman have given us the freedom, so we are really enjoying being out there and winning games.
“I don’t think it matters who we are playing. We go into every game wit the same approach and the mentality that we will win.”
Since really breaking onto the scene under Roberto Di Matteo in Dons’ return to League One in 2008/09, Baldock has scored 31 goals in 66 starts for the club.
And he believes that this season is the biggest test that Dons have had to face since their return to the division.
He said: “The standard in the league is probably higher than it was two years ago when we were challenging for promotion, and I think we’re doing really well.
“The teams around us also have a winning mentality, as do Leyton Orient, who are flying at the moment, but if we keep winning and only worrying about ourselves, we will give ourselves a good chance of the play-offs.”
Manager Karl Robinson praised his striker, but revealed he told him to ‘stay out of the way’ in the second half.
He said: “I told Sam at half time not to come back and get involved in our football - stay out the way and score goals.
“I just hope when you see the replay of the first goal, you see the whole move. If that was in any other league in the world, you’d be talking about it for a long time. It epitomised the way we play here.”
With Daniel Powell scoring regularly of late, and now Baldock returning from injury, Dons’ goal difference is finally in positive figures again. And Robinson admitted looking at League One’s top scorers with frustration as the teams around Dons rely on a prolific striker to net regularly.
But he thinks that Baldock can be that man for Dons in the final straight this season.
“It frustrates me to look at the top scorers list,” he said. “I can see the teams around us with players up there.
“We have scored goals from all over the pitch this year, but if we could have those goals and an outstanding goal scorer, we will become an even bigger threat.”