Dons cannot ignore threat of relegation despite the gap

Nine points clear of the bottom three, Dons are closer to 12th than 21st

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 2:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 3:05 pm
Russell Martin

Though they remain two places above the League One relegation zone, MK Dons are actually closer to Gillingham in the top half than they are to Tranmere Rovers. But the threat of the drop is still something they are not willing to overlook.

Two years ago, Dean Lewington said Dons were sleepwalking into a relegation fight, and they ultimately lost that battle when they dropped into League Two.

There has been a far more concerted effort this time around, acknowledging the problem the instant Russell Martin took the job.

But with the side winning two games at home last week, they are now three clear wins ahead of Tranmere, and could climb to 16th in the standings with a win on Saturday against Shrewsbury.

Neither Martin though nor midfielder Jordan Houghton are letting the numbers get in their heads though.

Both said the threat of relegation still looms, and neither are willing to overlook it, despite the growing cushion underneath them.

“Being sensible, we have to be aware of the threat,” said Martin.“We haven’t cracked it, the season is not done nor is it decided. The gap isn’t big enough, I’d like a bigger gap.

“Our objective remains to stay in the league. What we have done is put ourselves in touching distance of the teams above us – Shrewsbury on Saturday being one of them.

“We’ve come a long way, but the players need to be aware that there’s still a threat behind them.

“Until it’s mathematically impossible, I won’t be relaxed about it.

“I’m going into games genuinely looking forward to them because we’ve improved. We’re showing another side to our game, but we have to keep going back, refreshing things.

“And if we keep doing that, we’ll keep dragging people back to us and climbing over them.”

Houghton echoed his manager’s sentiments, adding: “We cannot get complacent. The season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to. We can’t stop thinking about it because the gap is nine points, it can easily turn around.

“Someone can put a run together and drag us back into it. We need to stick to it, keep plugging away and hopefully we’ll pull further away.”

Wins over Shrewsbury and Lincoln, who Dons play next Tuesday, will certainly help that, with Houghton adding: “It’s definitely something we will look at. It’s an incentive for us to do that. But both will be tough games. We’ll be looking to get close and maybe overtake them eventually and hopefully we can climb back up to where we should be.”