Dons need a different answer when teams ask them the same questions

They don't have to stray far from the path to given themselves a way out when things don't go their way

Sunday, 7th March 2021, 4:11 pm
Updated Sunday, 7th March 2021, 4:12 pm
Ethan Laird is closed down by three Gillingham players

Monty Python weren't talking about formations and football tactics when they said "and now time for something completely different" and in truth, Dons don't need something completely different to reverse their current fortunes either - but something a little different might give them a way of avoiding results such as the one they suffered at Wigan yesterday.

Now on a run of four games without a win, the mood is distinctly different from where it was just a couple of weeks ago when they were five unbeaten. It's not a stat that has gone unnoticed by Russell Martin nor the players themselves. Warren O'Hora was livid with himself on Tuesday night following the defeat to Gillingham, while Dean Lewington didn't pull any punches after the 3-0 thumping at the hands of Wigan on Saturday. But the actions now have to speak louder than their words.

The captain's line of "we have to find other ways at times at playing other teams who press the way they do," highlights arguably Dons' biggest weakness this season: playing against teams setting up to stop them.

To anyone who has watched Dons regularly this season, the notion of playing against a team lower than them in the table appears to be their Achilles' Heel. When you look to their best performances of the season, you look at Charlton away, Hull away, Sunderland away and, somewhat ironically, Gillingham and Wigan at home. Taking away the win over Wigan because of the turmoil the club was suffering at the time, one of the key factors in their joy was each side preparing a game plan to beat Dons, rather than setting up initially to stop them.

The style of play Dons deploy works, we know that much. It can also make them look like they have ideas above their station when they make mistakes. But we've heard all season long that Dons concentrate on themselves and how they want to play, so when a team sets up to smother Dons, to prevent them from what they're doing, they can come undone. Big banks to break down, a hurried press to put the defence under pressure on the ball and stifling the pivot-midfielder are oft-spotted methods of causing Dons problems.

When teams believe they can 'out-football' Dons approach heading into games though - concentrating on themselves and believing they can beat Dons with their own style - it appears to give Martin's men can take more of an advantage. Martin has recruited players who are confident on the ball, are happy to take people on and don't mind taking it in troublesome spots, so when a team is a little more standoffish, it plays into Dons' hands.

Lewington's call remains true though - Dons have to come up with something else from time-to-time, another weapon in their arsenal, a counter for their counter. It does not need to be the opposite of their current approach and probably would benefit from their strengths on the ball. But stubbornly sticking to their guns when they aren't getting any joy certainly won't bring them any. Whether it means taking on a more conventional pattern early on, lulling teams into a false sense of security or perhaps something even more subtle and sticking to their core values, even the slightest sign of a willingness to step away from the well-beaten path would appease anyone with questions.

Dons remain a team in transition though. At this stage, they can afford to experiment and test out with eyes for next season but results and performances like the humbling at Wigan will only raise frustration with the tactics rather than highlight their benefits.