MK Dons are not going away in the fight for automatic promotion, insists Karl Robinson after his side battled to a 1-0 win over Sheffield United on Saturday.
Carl Baker scored the only goal of the game after 66 minutes to move Dons up to third in League 1, six points behind Bristol City and Swindon, but crucially, with games in hand over their rivals.
Although the loss of top scorer Benik Afobe hit hard during the week, Dons are now 12 points clear of the final play-off spot, and are still right in the running for a top two finish, keeping Swindon and Bristol City on their toes.
After both picked up wins on Saturday, Robinson said: “They’ll be saying ‘so did MK Dons. And they’ve got games in hand.’ We’re not going away.
“Psychologically, it allows us to go and win games, rather than protect points. We can be more forward thinking and go for the throat. There are key areas where we can go forward.”
For long periods at stadium:mk, Dons and Sheffield United cancelled each other out perfectly. With few chances at either end, it didn’t make for a stand-out spectacle.
But while Jamal Campbell-Ryce missed a one-on-one at the end of the first half, Carl Baker scored Dons’ best chance of the game to seal all three points.
“Sometimes when you play against good sides, it won’t be as entertaining and open as people expect,” Robinson explained. “But we looked very strong in the first half. To lose Darren Potter as late as we did, I thought the boys were sensational. I thought Samir put a real shift in, and I think the players deserve a lot of credit.
“There wasn’t a great deal of opportunities at either end, we were very happy with the way we defended.
“We didn’t dominate. It was an evenly fought game, but when their chance came, they didn’t take it. When ours came along, we took it and it was the defining moment.”
Without Darren Potter anchoring the midfield, Robinson named a real jigsaw side, with players playing out of recognised positions.
One of those was Samir Carruthers, who was playing alongside Dele Alli in the centre of the park. After a string of uninspiring performances this season, Robinson said Carruthers stood out against a tough United midfield, and needs to believe in himself a bit more to find the form which prompted the Dons boss to sign him in the summer.
“Samir’s problem is that he cares too much,” he said. “It really affects him when he doesn’t do too well. He feels he’s let people down, and that has an effect on his confidence.
“He needs to understand the fans are behind him. That’s his biggest problem.”
And the manager was impressed by the 25 minute spell for his new striker Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Robinson added: “He won every header, he’s quick, he’s a nuisance. I think Jabo (Ibehre) was the last person we had of that ilk. He did well. I still want to bring in more though.”