Mental boost for Dons as they escape League One drop zone

MK Dons celebrate Rhys Healey's opener against Bristol RoversMK Dons celebrate Rhys Healey's opener against Bristol Rovers
MK Dons celebrate Rhys Healey's opener against Bristol Rovers
MK Dons are out of League One's bottom three for the first time since November, and Russell Martin admits it is a huge psychological boost for his players.

After narrowly missing out leapfrogging Tranmere on Sunday after Ronan Curtis' stoppage time goal for Portsmouth, Dons made sure they would be out of the drop zone with an emphatic and comprehensive 3-0 win over Bristol Rovers on New Year's Day.

Now with four wins on the spin at Stadium MK, Dons are starting to look like the side many expected them to be heading into the campaign, and Martin said although he hasn't spent much time looking at the table since he took over, getting out of the relegation zone is a big moment.

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He said: "To be honest, I've not looked at the table for a few weeks. I'm conscious and aware but I'm not looking at permutations. Psychologically, it's a boost for the players, it's what they've deserved in terms of performances.

Russell MartinRussell Martin
Russell Martin

"It's a plus of course, but now it's up to us to stay out, looking up rather over our shoulders. We're in charge of our own destiny, so it's up to us as a group to see where we head from here."

From the off, Dons looked in total control against Rovers, who headed to Stadium MK in decent form themselves, sitting seventh in the table. But Rhys Healey's goal after 15 minutes got them on their way, and though they could not extend their advantage by the break, Sam Nombe doubled the lead on the hour. Riding a late Rovers storm, Kieran Agard came off the bench to put the game to bed on 84 minutes, completing the rout.

Martin continued: "I thought the players were excellent. We've come through a tough period, physically, and for the league position we're in, to play with that much courage and conviction is phenomenal. We feel like that has been coming. The last two have been excellent, and we've finally got a clean sheet. I think Lee only had one save to make.

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"I'm just really pleased. We're growing together as a group. We'll have tough times, ups and downs, but we've got a chance now to enjoy games. We're believing in ourselves a lot more, and we're getting fitter and stronger all the time.

"I couldn't ask for any more in terms of them believing in us as a staff, and they're beginning to feel it, and see that is works for them. I'm just proud of what they're doing in the position we're in."