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This time Dons columnist Dominic Damesick praises Karl Robinson and his men for two very good results.
During the composition of these pieces over the season I have tried to be fair and give credit where it is due. Over the last week a lot of credit is due to Karl Robinson and his side – a side I had been on the verge of writing off.
Facing the league leaders at home midweek, and then having to travel to the home of the second-placed side at the weekend, is an extremely tricky proposition at the very best of times, let alone on the back of an eight-game winless streak.
The side entered the Doncaster game in the midst of probably the worst spell of Robinson’s fledging managerial career: eight games without a win; dropping out of the top-half; unable to beat the side bottom of the table; losing Gary MacKenzie to Blackpool; the financial strain of new trees in the car-park (NB: sarcasm) – things looked bleak.
Yet, Robinson got the key decisions right this week, and his well-deserved reward was to see his side pick up four points from the two games against the teams currently occupying the automatic promotion places.
First came a stunning 3-0 demolition of league leaders Doncaster, who were totally outclassed by Dons on Tuesday night. It was a very special night indeed, as Izale McLeod bagged his first goal since returning to MK, before the much-loved Stephen Gleeson marked his return from a broken foot with a goal to wrap up the emphatic victory. The scoreline flattered Doncaster, rather than Dons, as the away side were unable to deal with the home side’s slick passing, creative endeavour and high intensity.
Dons then travelled to Sheffield United, to play in front of the biggest attendance to be found at any League 1 ground on Saturday afternoon against Danny Wilson’s Blades, who were unbeaten in six and could go top with a win. In a hostile atmosphere, and against some high-quality opponents, Dons resolutely dug their heels in to claim a valuable point with a 0-0 draw.
The pure class of the Doncaster victory may not have been so readily on display, but Dons were disciplined, brave and tireless. Bodies were put on the line and the fight was not shied away from, as Dons looked as committed and determined as they have done at any point this season.
After two such superb performances, which combined the mental strength, work ethic and sublime quality that any successful side requires, eyes have shifted back to the league table. The play-offs are still a long-way off, but are still a visible goal on the horizon. Perhaps I wrote off Dons’ play-off chances too early. Yet, despite the unquantifiable improvement of the last two games, I would still venture that the play-offs will prove a bridge too far: Dons might have begun to turn the tide, but their ship may already have sailed.
Still, there is much football to be played, and enjoyed, and until the task is mathematically impossible Robinson must ensure that his side compete with everything they have left in the tank, and keep the dream of a late-season resurgence alive.