A critical week for Paul Tisdale and MK Dons
MK Dons are on the brink of a critical week as they slumped to the club's worst run of form ever.
Saturday's game was probably, arguably, possibly, almost definitely the strangest game I've seen in the nigh-on decade I've watched and covered MK Dons. Before the game, Paul Tisdale had hinted his side were likely to set up to play the majority of the game without the ball. That tactic was understandable to a degree, given the difference between the sides, given Fleetwood's recent performances and Dons' recent run of form. What we saw was a bizarre approach, bordering on anti-football.
According to the statistics, Joey Barton's side had 73 per cent possession but that only tells half the story, because truthfully, the somewhat crude measuring techniques aren't entirely to be trusted. Anyone at the Highbury Stadium may not be exaggerating when they say it could easily have been 85 per cent or more. It felt like you could count Dons' touches, particularly in the attacking third, on one hand.
But whether you think it was the right thing to do, or the sign of a manager desperately flailing as pressure mounts ever more on his shoulders, few can deny that it nearly worked - they were five minutes plus stoppage time away from snagging a desperately needed point. When luck is again you, though, everything seems to conspire against you and Lee Nicholls spilling the ball into the path of Ched Evans after colliding with his own man in fielding a routine ball into the box was exactly Dons' luck. Brave performances from Regan Poole, Joe Walsh and the imperious Jordan Moore-Taylor will fall by the wayside in favour of recalling a game where Dons seemingly refused to attack.
There is no question that pressure on Tisdale is increasing. Fans are losing faith, results are drastic and they teeter on the brink of the League One relegation zone. Both Karl Robinson and Robbie Neilson were sent packing when they first dipped their toes into the bottom four. Dons currently sit in the top four, but out of the relegation by virtue of Bury's expulsion from the league. The manager does not paint a promising picture for the near future either. Almost resigned to 'more of the same' for the next two months, Tisdale said Dons need to get through to the New Year hoping to pick up the odd result along the way. The squad he has at his disposal now is the squad he will have until at least January, with none of Joe Mason, Rhys Healey or Sam Nombe expected back before then. And after just one draw to 'celebrate' in the last eight league games, the end of 2019 looks bleak.
There are now three options the club must negotiate: 1) give Tisdale the benefit of the doubt and keep him in place until he can add to his squad in the transfer window and when his injured strikers return2) give him another game or two to see if he can get Dons out of their current mire3) pull the plug completely
There are now three home games in a row - Tranmere, who sit one place above Dons; League Two Port Vale in the FA Cup and Wycombe in the Leasing.com Trophy - and a trip to bottom club Bolton Wanderers, who remain in negative points. There is not a better run of fixtures for Tisdale to prove he can turn things around. But he may not be given the chance if his inevitable conversations with the chairman this do not provide the right answers.