THIS time Dons columnist Dominic Damesick notices that Dons’ league results have improved significantly since they were drawn against AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup.
It is there on the horizon, looming over the skyline of roundabouts and concrete – the FA Cup match against AFC Wimbledon. It seems to be all anybody in either Dons camp can talk about, despite the claims of those in south-west London that this is not a rivalry, and MK Dons are an irrelevance.
The controversial history of the move, and the various debates that accompany it over what are facts or fictions, have been dragged back to the surface, and it has been disappointing to see so many inaccuracies and half-truths reported by the media.
By all means, journalists should take an anti-MK Dons stance if they deem it compelling to do so, but they could at least base such an argument upon their own, accurate findings, rather than relying on the rehashed rhetoric of agenda-driven Wombles.
I will try and address some of these issues, but it will take a rather extended piece to address the complexities of the issue, and my personal relationship to it, and so it will have to wait for another week or so whilst I address more relevant, and interesting, topics.
Dons have, in their last two League 1 matches, conquered the top two sides in the division. In both matches they dominated for long periods, and earned the three points courtesy of late winners. Goals from the 85th minute onwards have tended, especially last season, to go against Dons rather than for them, and the clinching of two such crucial victories courtesy of last-minute winners points to a greater mental toughness in this team; a greater reserve of mental determination to push until the very last; a greater self-belief to not become despondent as the seconds tick away.
In the last couple of weeks Dons have ticked the three boxes of what a successful side needs – the ability to beat your rivals; keep clean sheets; and score late winners. These three factors have rarely, if ever, been jointly achieved during Karl Robinson’s reign, and now they have been realised in two consecutive games. If Dons do go up this season, fans will surely look back at those two games as a watershed moment.
After two victories as euphoric as those which Dons have recently enjoyed, over Sheffield United and Tranmere Rovers respectively, a game against more modest opposition can be very dangerous.
Dons travel to Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night – who have found life tough so far this season – but cannot afford to be complacent. I’m sure Dons would never consciously approach a game with less professionalism, but Robinson needs to be sure that his side apply the same intensity to the match against Shrewsbury, as they did against Sheffield United and Tranmere.
If Dons let their standards slip now then the magnitude of their achievement in the last two games will be diminished, and that is something that the performances in the last couple of weeks do not deserve.
This seems to be a good time for the league games to be coming thick and fast. Dons have hit a rich vein of form, and must be brimming with confidence. This may have been helped by the forthcoming FA Cup match, which has meant that Dons’ on-field performances have not been under quite the usual level of scrutiny, as large portions of the fanbase keep one eye on that AFC Wimbledon match.
Since the match against AFC Wimbledon was announced as a possibility, Dons have looked to have more freedom to their play, perhaps feeling liberated from the shackles of relentless analysis of their every on-field move.
Regardless of the implications of the FA Cup match for MK Dons off the pitch, on the pitch the tie seems to have only had a positive, rejuvenating impact on Robinson’s side. AFC Wimbledon: can we get drawn against you every week?
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