WITH most of the talk this week being about potential FA Cup opponents, Dons’ League 1 clash against Leyton Orient has gone somewhat under the radar. But both sides desperately need the points.
It would probably be a bit over the top to describe a game in early November as ‘must win’, but given Dons’ disappointing league position, and the fact that Karl Robinson’s men have only won one of their last six, it’s not far off.
Tuesday night’s results mean Dons go into the game against struggling Orient sat ninth in the table, four points off the play-off places and nine behind Sheffield United, who went top with a draw at Swindon.
And with the Blades next up at stadium:mk on Saturday, November is shaping up to be the sort of month that could make or break a team’s season.
Tonight’s game against Orient – two points above the bottom four after losing their last three – is Dons’ first on a Wednesday night since they won 2-1 at Bristol Rovers in February 2011.
That success at the Memorial Stadium saw Dons climb into the League 1 play-off places, and that is once again the aim this week, with six points on offer in the space of three days.
Victory over Russell Slade’s lowly Orient would see Dons move to within a point of the top six sides ahead of Saturday’s much anticipated visit from unbeaten Sheffield United – a clash that really could get their promotion push back on track. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
However, the importance of the Sheffield United game will depend on the outcome of Tuesday night’s, and with that in mind, Dons can’t afford to walk off the pitch with anything less than a fifth home league win of the season.
Orient have picked up almost as many points away from home as they have at the Matchroom Stadium this term, and Robinson is wary of their threat – even if they are as big as 13/2 outsiders with some bookmakers to win at stadium:mk.
Robinson said: “They’re all winnable, but they’re all losable too. You don’t get easy games nowadays. You have to make them easy. There are no givens, and Wednesday night will be a very hard start to a difficult period for us.
“I’ve never marked a team down as a game we should win. I wouldn’t want to put that pressure on the players. We could lose on Wednesday and go on and win the next three because we’re capable of doing that.
“We could win on Wednesday and lose the next two. Each game needs a different set of skills.”
Robinson has also been encouraged by the form of striker Ryan Lowe, who – despite being linked with a loan move away from the club for the last couple of weeks – looks set to start up front for the second time in a week.
“I’m thankful that we’ve got Bowditch and Powell close to full fitness, and Angelo Balanta back too. Ryan Lowe has been unbelievable in training – the best he has been since he came to the club,” said Robinson.
“He had a good game at Cambridge City on Friday, and although it wasn’t against a professional team, he looked like he was in the right mindset that he was going to score goals.
“We feel we have an awful lot going for us now. We’re back here for a while, with three games in seven days.
“Orient have some really gifted players who can win them football matches. They went to Swindon and won 1-0, and that’s a very difficult ask. They’ve been to a lot of places and come away with results that not many people will have expected them to.
“They’ll come here as the underdogs, but Russell Slade will be really looking forward to testing themselves against us. There are no easy games in League One and that’s the beauty of it.”