Nerves jangled for several reasons on Tuesday night, but Russell Martin insisted his side’s new style of play will pay off.
‘Route One’ football now dubbed archaic and primitive by modern standards, Martin’s tact to ‘play out from the back’ showed teething problems early on, with Lee Nicholls playing as a ‘sweeper-keeper’ and almost getting caught out doing so.
Short, swift passes are not a new phenomenon for Dons though. For six years, it’s how they made their name and drew players to the club under Karl Robinson, who was in attendance for Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Coventry ahead of his Oxford side’s visit in 10 days.
Progress is beginning to show for Martin, who has now finally shrugged off the ‘hasn’t won a game’ monkey from his back, avoiding Dan Micciche’s unwanted record of five straight defeats after taking over.
Under Martin, they looked impressive for spells against Bolton and Rotherham, but both games saw them come undone.
Against Coventry though, it all came together, and though there are still teething problems, it’s a style the manager is eager to see work.
“I’m all in on it,” he said. “The players want to play like that. If you want football like we played in the first half against Rotherham, then we’ll have to keep working on that.
“We’re not going to have it all one-way, but with the quality of the goalkeeper we’ve got, I believe we can play that way. Now we have to put a performance together where we dominate the majority of the game, and that will come.
“We’ve only had a couple of weeks on it, so I’m really proud of the players.
“I genuinely believe that’s how we can move up the league. And if we do it well, teams will find it hard to play against. As good as I want us to be in possession, we have to be as good out of it too. We need both, we need a balance, we’re not naive about it but hopefully it will pay off more often than not.
“Sometimes it won’t work, but that takes bravery and courage. I hope people will get behind it, and they will enjoy watching it.
“And surely that’s what they want – under Karl they had a great style of football and that’s what they became known for. There is loads of work to do, but it’s a style of football we want to stick to.”