The hand hovers over Dons' panic button
Despite losing to one of their relegation rivals on Saturday, despite slipping four points adrift in the fight for safety and despite only hitting the target three times, MK Dons aren't hitting the panic button... yet.
But with more two games to be played by this time next week, it could be being hammered with venom.
Irrespective of a dubious refereeing decision maybe costing Dons a goal, Fulham looked more dangerous at Craven Cottage on Saturday. Look beyond Ross McCormack’s price tag, or the value Premier League teams were reportedly willing to pay for Moussa Dembele a matter of months ago, Fulham are 21st in the Championship after 39 games - it’s not a false position.
Dons simply lacked bite, lacked a killer instinct and lacked an edge Fulham appeared they could draw from whenever they had the ball in the attacking third. Josh Murphy has been Dons’ biggest threat in almost every game, but was anonymous for long periods on Saturday, until his goal in fact. It has been a suspicious trait of the man on loan from Norwich, but there’s no denying the numbers - he’s Dons’ top scorer this season with five league goals.
Alex Revell has been hailed by the fans since his arrival in January, but has just two goals to his name, and none in the last five. Nicky Maynard is the alternative, but you have to go as far back as Boxing Day to find his last league goal. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas didn’t even make the squad for the trip to Craven Cottage. Point at Karl Robinson’s decision to rotate at the top end of the pitch all you want - none of them are producing the goods that will keep Dons in the Championship.
Cody Cropper was the busier of the two keepers during the course of the afternoon, and in fact was one of the few positives Dons could take from the afternoon. The relatively inexperienced American will probably play the remainder of the season between the sticks with David Martin out for the foreseeable future with a broken hand, but Cropper’s performances of late when substituting will give the defence a lot of confidence in the man behind them.
But it’ll mean nothing if the next two games don’t go to plan. Wolves are a comfortably midtable team with nothing but pride really to play for, but that’s not a given they’ll be a roll-over. And then Rotherham on Saturday are the league’s form team, a completely different prospect to the side which looked dead and buried six weeks ago - to the side which have comprehensively dumped their misery on Dons on the way past.
There’s still time, of course, and nothing is set in stone with seven games still to play but it’s a time that fans are beginning to ask questions. Though there’s still an air of confidence and positivity around the stadium:mk camp, there needs to be a shared message - that relegation cannot be tolerated.
Karl Robinson’s message has been of the utmost zeal, simply refusing to tolerate any thought of finishing in the bottom three. That refusal to give it any time though threatens to overshadow the storm cloud they’re staring straight at - relegation is a real possibility. Ignoring it for much longer will leave the fans to ponder whether their manager is really aware what the drop will mean to them, whether the players are really as desperate as they are and whether returning to League 1 will hurt as much on the field as it will in the terraces. There can’t be that disparity, everyone needs to be on the same page.
No, it’s not time to hit the panic button. But the hand is hovering over it, and it’s getting dangerously close.