MK Dons boss Robbie Neilson wants his players to ‘lay down a marker’ when they taken on an experienced Southend United team in Sky Bet League One on Tuesday night (ko 7.45pm).
It’s 13th against 14th at Stadium MK, with both teams just five points off the top six, and the Scotsman believes the clash against Southend offers the Dons a chance to make a real statement.
That’s because he is sure Phil Brown’s ‘very established’ side are going to be in the play-off shake-up at the end of the season, which is exactly he wants the Dons to be.
“You look at Southend and they are a very experienced team,” said Neilson.
“They have players that have played a lot of matches, in a team that has been together for quite a long time now.
“They have good physicality in their team, with Nile Ranger, Anton Ferdinand, Ryan Leonard in midfield, and they have good movement up front from Simon Cox and Theo Robinson.
“So they are a very established league one team, a team I expect to be round and about the play-offs, so we know this an important game for us.
“If we can get a result and laye down a marker, then one it pushes us on, but it shows us where we are in this league.”
Neilson is likely to stick with the bulk of the team that started in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Charlton Athletic, but one change that does seem likely is Kieran Agard coming in for a start.
The striker came off the bench in the second half at the Valley to score his first two goals of the season, including a stoppage time penalty to level the scores, and he is likely to be rewarded with a start against Southend.
Neilson is delighted Agard has finally got off the mark on the scoring front, and says he now expects him to follow on and score more for the club.
“Keiran’s had a difficult period, but he is a great kid and the rest of the team love him because they know he works hard and he gives 100 per cent every day,” said the former Hearts boss.
“He has managed to turn that corner and get the two goals, and it was two huge goals for us. I expect him now to kick on and get his goals.”