A disappointing season for everyone, says Dons boss Neilson
Robbie Neilson said he knew exactly what he was walking into when he took over at MK Dons in December, but admits it has been a disappointing season for the club.
Tuesday night's defeat to rivals AFC Wimbledon in the first meeting between the two sides in London left Dons 17th in League 1, six points above the relegation zone - a far cry from the instant return to the Championship the club had aimed for when the season began.
Recent form has been patchy, picking up just six points from a possible 24 with one win in seven, and Neilson, who swapped the Scottish top flight for the wrong end of the English third tier in December, said he was never under any other illusion than to play out the season with survival the primary objective.
"I knew what I was coming into," he said. "I knew I was coming into a team that had come down, and there was a negativity about the place. There wasn't a huge turnaround in the players either, so there was a feel that it was going to be a difficult season, and it has turned out to be that way. The key for us was to get some stability, which I think we did, and then build for summer.
"Things don't change over night. Our first result here was to win at home, and that was a long time coming - nine months. We've managed to pick up points at home. Our points ratio since we came in has been mid-to-top end of the table.
"Everyone wants to see winning football and football they enjoy. It has been a really difficult season, it was a difficult situation when we came in. We got up a little bit but we've struggled in the last few weeks. Things won't go automatically from struggling to winning every week.
"We have to stick together, get behind the players, and they have tot work hard on the pitch to get through this season together. It has been a disappointing season for everyone. You can see the negativity has filtered down after relegation last season. But the role has been to stabilise and build over the summer."
And it will be a big rebuild in the summer. With eight first teamers out of contract at the end of the season, including captain Dean Lewington, keeper David Martin and the season's second leading scorer Dean Bowditch, Neilson said he may be making sweeping changes to the side, but first he has to ensure League 1 safety.
He added: "We have to get points on the board to make sure we're safe, get a few more wins. Once we're over that line, we can look to next season.
"It's natural in football that there will be changes - some players will stay, some will go. But the key is to make sure the squad is better at the start of next season than it is now."
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