DONS have got to win 10 of their remaining 16 League 1 matches to stand a chance of promotion this year, according to manager Karl Robinson.
After being knocked out of the FA Cup 3-1 to Championship side Barnsley on Saturday, Dons now have just the league to concentrate on between now and the end of the season, and more importantly, the fight to get out of it.
But the table doesn’t make for pleasant viewing at the moment, with Dons down in 12th place, 11 points from the last play-off spot, though most of the teams between them and sixth place have played more games.
As a result, Robinson and his players have drawn a line under the season so far, and will start afresh, knowing that 10 wins from their remaining games should give them enough to secure a place in the top six come the end of April.
“I think if we win 10 out of the next 16 games that should be enough,” said Robinson. “Arguably, a lot of those games are against the teams up there who you want to gain ground on. That’s the aim.
“I apologise for where we are in the league table, but we can’t keep over-performing and then expect to do that with the injuries we’ve had.
“And I will make excuses for them, and I’ll protect the chairman and the players. The club has found it hard to compete this year.
“We’re getting people back slowly but surely and I’ve got to make sure we’ve got a team who can compete. If we get in the play-offs this year, it will be my greatest achievement.
“This is the biggest test of any manager at this football club. And I’m ready for it.”
At the beginning of the season, Dons’ aim was automatic promotion, with a place in the play-offs seen as the minimum required. But now, Robinson has admitted that if he was offered a place in the play-offs, he’d have to take it.
“Being honest, I’d take a place in the play-offs now. Automatic is still our aim, and I’m not giving up on it. But being realistic, mathematically, it will be hard,” he said.
“The teams up there still have to play each other, and someone’s got to win!
“For us to finish in the play-offs, we’re over-achieving. We have been spoilt in the last few years, and this year we have had a wonderful cup run.
“If we don’t make it, then we’ll have to rebuild properly for next season, and look at things in a slightly different way.”
Asked whether he felt the season would be a disaster if Dons didn’t extend their season into May, the boss said: “I’d be disappointed. But maybe we’d need to have a look at other things. Players don’t become bad players over night.
“I know what we’re doing right, but criticism is part of the game. There’s an awful lot of strengths this year and if we don’t make the play-offs, then I’ll look back on the cup run and think maybe that was the joy to get us out of the solemn mood we were in.
“Now though, we’ve got a lot of good games to go and play in. I’m ready for them.
“I’m the one people look to, leads by example, takes the criticism, the one who takes the flack. And I’m ready for the next 16 games.”