Keeping hold of players, buying new ones and adapting to life in the Championship - MK Dons could learn a lot from Saturday’s opponents Preston North End.
Karl Robinson’s side went toe-to-toe to Simon Grayson’s at the end of last season’s thrilling League 1 campaign, with Dons snatching the second automatic promotion spot in the final game of the season as Preston’s remarkable 18-match undefeated streak coming to an end against Colchester.
The Lilywhites would eventually join Dons in the Championship courtesy of the play-offs, but, according to the Dons boss, that’s where the similarities ended.
“The two clubs’ stories couldn’t further apart, given how close and parallel we ran last season,” he said. “It was a big summer for both sides, and when you see what they were able to do, it shows where we need to improve - some things were taken out of our control, where they were able to stay in control.
“They were able to keep all of their key players over the summer, which is important, and they were able to build. That’s growth. They’ve done an amazing job.
“They’ve done well, and no-one take anything away from them this season. In Simon Grayson, they’ve got a man who has been there, seen it done it. As a football club, you’ve got to take your hat off to them.”
Dons head to Lancashire on Saturday having never beaten Preston in nine meetings, drawing all of their previous encounters at Deepdale.
But with the club now teetering on the brink of the drop, anything other than winning all of their remaining five games will spell relegation.
Robinson added: “We’re bitterly disappointed about where we are.
“Preston got some really potent strikers, some efficient strikers, and a lot of them! We know how hard it’s going to be on Saturday, and I don’t think we’ve ever beaten them.
“And then we got to Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night - it doesn’t get much harder.
“We have to restore some pride now.”