What a difference a week makes for Dons

Carl Baker opens the scoring for MK Dons PNL-150322-103311002
Carl Baker opens the scoring for MK Dons PNL-150322-103311002

Two weeks ago, a seven day period threatened to end all hope of Dons’ automatic promotion chances. Fast forward to present day, and a similar period has fired them right back into the fight.

Picking up seven points in seven days has seen Dons reduce the gap to Preston in second down to four points with eight games remaining, though the numbers are largely irrelevant.

In truth, far more relieving for supporters at stadium:mk on Saturday was the return of a familiar style of play - one that had been missing when the team failed to pick up a point from three matches.

Overturning Notts County 4-1 was the culmination of getting back to basics. Robinson and his staff held crisis talks with the players as their confidence threatened to plummet through the floor, reminding them of everything the team worked on in pre-season: ball retention, swift two-touch football, free-flowing attacking football.

While chances were at a premium during the dip, Notts County simply couldn’t contain a rampant Dons side desperate to give the neigh-on 12,000 fans a performance to get behind once more. And if they couldn’t, then they were probably in the away end.

What the last two games have highlighted is the importance of the draw at Walsall last Saturday. Will Grigg’s equalising goal, after great work from Dean Bowditch to put it on a plate for him, wasn’t just celebrated in ‘kids on the playground’ style in an attempt to rile the Walsall fans (though that played a part) but was also the first signs of Dons getting back on track.

Notts County goalkeeper Roy Carroll couldn't do it all himself. PNL-150322-103243002

Notts County goalkeeper Roy Carroll couldn't do it all himself. PNL-150322-103243002

The run of fixtures was kind to Dons too. After Walsall came a trip to a troubled Oldham, riddled with injuries and desperately trying to cope after the departure of manager Lee Johnson. Having dished out a cruel lesson to the Latics at stadium:mk, beating them a record-breaking 7-0, it could easily have been a similar rugby score had Grigg found his shooting boots. Fortunately, Dons were as comfortable in a 3-1 win as you’re ever likely to see.

Then came Notts County: in a similar rut, and almost taught a similar lesson. The first half was a one-sided 0-0, with keeper Roy Carroll the only reason Dons weren’t going in high and dry at the interval. Top stops from Lewis Baker, Daniel Powell and Carl Baker kept his side in touch, but the latter’s 63rd minute rocket finally broke the deadlock. From there, there would only be one winner.

Lewis Baker’s goal deserved to be the party piece of the afternoon 11 minutes after the opener, but Grigg’s late cameo saw him ensure the comprehensive 4-1 victory, bumping up the scoreline to one worthy of the performance.

The resurgence now coincides with an upturn in the level of opposition Dons face over the next two weeks. Doncaster are on the brink of the play-offs and will be desperate to break into the top six with a late spurt, while mecaro are another contender for automatic promotion.

The Dons of two weeks ago, the Dons who struggled to create chances, who looked at sea at the back and lost in midfield, would have been in distinct trouble against sides of that ilk.

But with a confidence and spring in their step again, the promotion battle is right back in their court.