DONS’ new three-man midfield will take some getting used to, but there is still time to do so, insists Stephen Gleeson.
Speaking after Friday night’s 0-0 pre-season friendly draw with Premier League side Norwich City, the Irish midfielder admitted there were still a lot of issues to iron out with the team’s new style of play, which will see Shaun Williams move up to play alongside him and Darren Potter in a three-man diamond.
The system failed to get going in the first half against the Canaries, and manager Karl Robinson reverted back to last season’s formation which seemed to have a greater effect.
In a first half void of much action, David Martin kept the scores level at half time with a brave save which saw him collide with City’s Steve Morison and come off the worse.
For Dons, only a Luke Chadwick effort after 25 minutes had keeper Declan Rudd moving in his goal-mouth, though he need not have bothered as the shot sailed wide.
But the second half saw a much improved Dons look more lively. With Williams dropping back to defence and the introduction of Jay O’Shea who replaced Adam Chicksen, Dons looked the better side, testing Rudd almost from the whistle to restart the half.
Gleeson and O’Shea both worked the keeper before Chadwick missed a sitter to open the scoring after substitute Daniel Powell forced a good save from Rudd, which fell into the path of the former Norwich winger. But at full stretch, he could knock it wide.
At the other end, Michael Turner forced a good save from Martin, and Morison had a late chance to win the game, but Martin did superbly to tip his goal-bound volley over the bar to keep another clean sheet.
With the first half system not working, Gleeson said the next two weeks will be key for the midfield trio to gel and make the most of the talents they have available in the centre.
“We tried the new system but I don’t think it worked out too well in the first half,” he said. “But we’ve still got time before the proper league starts so we’ll keep working on the training ground to get it right.
“We’ve got three of the best midfielders in the league, so hopefully we can all work and gel together. We’re young, we’re going to make mistakes but we will learn from it.
“Things aren’t going to happen over night. This is the first time we’ve played a quality team with that new three-man midfield, so against Fulham we will be even better.
“We can make mistakes in games like this. We don’t get too hard on ourselves because we know it’s not the league. We’re going to work hard on making the system work. Shaun is excellent and deserves to play in midfield.
“We are not 100 per cent there yet so the next week or so will be huge for us. Things weren’t right in the first half, there’s a lot of things to work on, but we can work on it. For Oldham, we want to be ready.”
With the beginning of the season just a week away, starting with the Capital One Cup clash with Cheltenham Town on Saturday, Gleeson is relishing getting the campaign underway.
With Dons ranked among the favourites for the League One title, Gleeson says the only pressure the players are feeling is from themselves.
He said: “No one is putting the pressure on us to get out of this league, only us putting pressure on ourselves. We should have got out last year.
“This year, we’re not hiding away from the fact that we want to be favourites, we want to be the team everyone wants to beat and hopefully we can live up to that.”
Gleeson, Potter and Williams will get another chance to test out their new midfield formation on Tuesday night as they take on another Premier League side at stadium:mk, this time Fulham.