Karl Robinson said his side earned the right to call themselves a Championship club on Tuesday night after a hard fought 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers.
Daniel Powell came off the bench and took just three minutes to score the only goal of the game after 59 minutes to down Neil Lennon’s men, who are yet to score a league goal this season.
But after a lackluster first 45 minutes, Robinson told his players to stop questioning whether they were worthy of Championship status, and show everyone what they’re capable of at this level.
“I said at half time that we have to believe in ourselves,” he said. “We looked like we didn’t belong, like we were asking whether we deserved to be there, whether we were meant to be there, was it a cup game?
“I told them they’ve earned the right to be there, and be up against these gifted talented players, you’ve earned the right to show everyone how good you are. Go out there and do it.
“If we fall out of this league, it’s my fault. We have to play with a freedom, and I’m willing to play with that freedom. They deserve a pat on the back.
“We have to compete every single day. The Championship is different. It’s harder. Trust me.”
While Robinson’s assessment was frank, but while he felt his players may have failed to shine on an individual level, they were all worthy of their place on the field.
He said: “I don’t think anyone, other than Darren Potter, was outstanding or worth more than a seven out of ten. But everyone was a seven!
“We started OK, and we didn’t concede many chances. Territorially, they had more of the play. We learned a lot from Saturday, and denied the game of fluidity when we didn’t have any ourselves.”
Dons went into the game, most notably, without injured Ben Reeves, but also without Joe Walsh who’d picked up a knock, and Rob Hall who wasn’t allowed to play as part of his loan agreement with Bolton.
But while Robinson said squad is weakened, with neither Sergio Aguza nor Cristian Benavente expected to be fully match fit until late October, he’s working hard behind the scenes to bring in two more players who he feels will make a huge difference.
“We’ve got a player here tonight who we know will make a big difference,” he said. “And another we hope to announce in the next 48 hours.
“We’re a club in transition. We’ve lot Dele, Benik and Will, but we’re reshuffling. It’ll take time to find it again.”