Martin's growing impatience needs to bring a change in MK Dons
A manager once told me 'sometimes you've got to lose games to win games' but it was never a philosophy I bought into - he went on to get relegated (sacked just before, actually). It's not one Russell Martin buys into either, as shown by his changed demeanour after losing 2-1 to Portsmouth on Saturday.
'Losing games to win games' was not an approach Martin took kindly to when he first took over the hotseat last November, and nothing has changed 11 months down the line in that respect.
"I'm fed up with being angry," he said as he criticised his players for the first time this season at Fratton Park. Their seeming desire to give teams a headstart has cost them plenty of points already, and we're only five games into a new campaign.
We could go through the stats over and over again, reading how many goals they have let in in the opening 15 minutes of games (it's five), how much possession and how many shots they had at Fratton Park (71 per cent and 19) but two really count - number of points and league position (two, and 24th).
Having seen Martin as a manager for almost a year, there are only a handful of times I can recount where I've seen him angry - after blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at ghome to Rotherham in his fourth game in charge, the dismal showing at Southend on Boxing Day where Dons were lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw, and most recently at Portsmouth on Saturday. Saturday was a different anger though, one stemming from a frustration he cannot seem to alter.
Scott Fraser's brutally honest interview after the game too highlighted just how disappointed the players were to be playing so well, but ultimately coming off pitches with the taste of defeat in their mouths.
So something clearly has to change. The hunt for a striker remains on the board before Friday's deadline passes, but it's not just a lack of a potent goal-scorer that is the issue here. Some have suggested a formation change to give Dons a more rigid, traditional and unadventurous defensive structure to try and stop the early goals, though that would do precious little to prevent a header from a corner, or the shockingly awarded penalty against Lincoln. It would also nullify where Dons have been so good so far, playing games at a pace and tempo not many sides have not been able to cope with as yet. Goals at both ends, though, win games.
It feels like the fundamentals are all there, the understanding of the style and precision Martin demands is coming together. They look a more complete team to the one which played Coventry in the Carabao Cup back in September, but if they cannot start a game without gifting the opposition a pretty straight-forward way to goal, perhaps Martin needs to send them out 15 minutes earlier to get those mistakes out of their system before kick-off.
Whatever the solution is, Dons need to find it quickly, ideally, before the opposition open the scoring.