Dons must ‘park the emotion’ in final two games after Oxford defeat
Oxford United 1-0 MK Dons
Liam Manning applauds the travelling 1,600 MK Dons supporters after the defeat to Oxford United
Suffering back-to-back defeats is not something Liam Manning has had to deal with much this season - only once in fact - but he was left frustrated by a late Oxford United winner as his MK Dons side missed out on the chance to move back into the top two on Tuesday night.
With Rotherham losing to Burton and Wigan drawing with Ipswich, Dons had the chance to cut the gap at the top of the table before both play their games in hand next week, but a late defensive lapse from his side allowed Oxford’s Billy Bodin to fire in three minutes from the end at the Kassam Stadium to leave the top three as they were.
After losing to Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, the loss to Oxford is only the second time they have lost back-to-back under Manning’s watch - the only other time was back in October when they were beaten by Rotherham and then Aston Villa U21s in the Papa John’s Trophy.
With two games left this season, the automatic promotion race will go down to the wire, but Manning said his players need to move past the emotion of Tuesday’s loss and knuckle down for the final push.
“The lads are disappointed in there, we're all emotionally invested,” he said. “But I'm still super proud of what they have done this season and how they played at times tonight as well. They're the positives we have to take.
“You can't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, we have another big game on Saturday. We'll make sure we park the emotion, stay on track and make sure we're ready to go.”
‘A lesson in game management’
Bodin’s winner came after Dons had dominated the opening half and should have been a goal ahead, but Troy Parrott saw his one-on-one effort scooped off the line by Ciaron Brown, and Conor Coventry was inches away from sliding in Kaine Kesler-Hayden’s cross just six minutes before the winner.
On the game, Manning said: “The time and the manner of the goal are disappointing but we played some terrific stuff first half. We can look at the goal, but the quality at the other end too. The goal is what it is, I'm not going to blame anyone, it's more about learning.
“We got into dangerous areas, looked a threat when we got through the press but it just fizzled out and came to nothing. It was the old cliche - a game of two halves.”
“It's a big lesson for us in terms of game management. We should ride out the sticky periods but be brave enough to get on the ball with a bit more quality which we didn't do in the second half.
“You're coming away to a strong side who have to win, and it's a big occasion for them. We had to stay cool, calm and focused and in control of what we needed to do. We lost that a little bit, and played the occasion but we're a young group, we have to learn quick and move on.”