Dons win hardest fight of the season

MK Dons' Dele Alli scores against Crawley Town (Pic by Jon Rigby) PPP-140830-215827004
MK Dons' Dele Alli scores against Crawley Town (Pic by Jon Rigby) PPP-140830-215827004

Monday night threatened to be Dons’ biggest battle of the season, and winning it could be worth much more than just three points in the league.

Transfer deadline day came and went, but while armies of fans gathered outside training grounds at their Premier League clubs, Karl Robinson and his team were bunked inside stadium:mk, ready to defend against potential bids for their biggest star.

Rumours have swirled around Dele Alli since he exploded onto the first team scene a little over 12 months ago as a 17-year-old, and after a showcase performance fit for his career highlights DVD against Manchester United last week, Dons were prepared for someone to come knocking with a serious offer.

As the night wore on, Robinson told fans that ‘no news would be the best news,’ insisting that he was happy with the way his squad looked, and wasn’t looking to improve unless he lost someone.

He, his backroom and recruitment staff waited, and waited... and waited for a bid to come their way, but by the time Big Ben chimed 11pm, they knew they’d done enough - they were keeping their squad in tact.

Alli himself took to Twitter on the stroke of closure to say: “Thanks for all the messages! Would LOVE to be a part of getting the club to where it deserves to be, which is higher!” prompting a flood of responses from Dons supporters telling him of their delight.

It may be that the rumour mill, which is more often than not based entirely in cuckoo land, was in over-drive when it came to the interest genuinely shown in Alli, but Robinson was certainly concerned enough not to want to comment on him following Saturday’s 2-0 win over Crawley.

And if there were no hints that a bid would be coming for him, or any of Dons’ other potential gems, then the doors would probably have been locked on Robinson’s office long before the 11pm deadline.

So what does it mean for Dons now?

Robinson said his current squad still isn’t as strong as the team he built in 2011, before losing Sam Baldock to West Ham.

But for the first time, there is not just strength, but quality in depth.

Kyle McFadzean’s sending off on Saturday will see him banned for three games, but there is little to worry about in his absence, with Jordan Spence ready to slot back in alongside Antony Kay.

Lee Hodson’s lengthy lay-off with ruptured ankle ligaments could have spelt trouble, but for the promising performance of George Baldock to fill in at right back.

Even Darren Potter’s early withdrawal on Saturday wasn’t met with too much angst, with Mark Randall ready and waiting in the wings to take over in the centre of the park.

For almost two years, Robinson’s headaches have been based on selection problems. Now, his headaches remain the same, only this time, it’s being caused by who he won’t be selecting, rather than who he can’t.

The season may only be four weeks old, but it has been one of the most eventful for the club.

Matches against AFC, Peterborough, Coventry and Manchester United would ordinarily steal the headlines for any one month, but they’ve all come in August, and Dons have come out of it smelling of roses.

With a couple of weeks off to recharge, Robinson’s all-star squad, with just one defeat to their name in the opening seven games, should come back with a new sense of belief that this could be their time.

The biggest battle is still yet to come.