The magic of the FA Cup is still very much alive for Karl Robinson as his side scraped a 2-2 draw away at League 2 Northampton Town on Saturday to keep their name in the hat for the fourth round.
While a stint in the world’s most famous cup competition won’t be the highlight of Dons’ first season in the Championship, and the difficult draw at Sixfields will be even further from that, Robinson insists avoiding defeat to the high-flying Cobblers is the most important thing to have come out of the day.
Far from their best, Dons took the lead through a goal later credited to Dean Bowditch after Lee Hodson’s cross deflected off Ryan Creswell after 12 minutes. From there, the home side controlled the afternoon, but it took until after the break before they’d get their rewards.
Ricky Holmes netted twice in nine second half minutes to fire the home side justifiably ahead, though Ben Reeves’ shot with eight minutes to go came off the hapless Creswell and past keeper Adam Smith to rescue the Championship side from an upset, forcing a replay back at stadium:mk.
“The most important thing is that we’re still in the FA Cup,” said Robinson. “We’ll take them back to stadium:mk and if we win it, we’ll be in the fourth round, and that’s great. I’d rather have a replay than not be in it.
“Not until we’re out of this competition will we give up on it. We could have easily thrown the towel in with 20 minutes to go, 2-1 down. But we didn’t and we stuck at it until the end, on a day we weren’t good. They’re traits we have to show until the end of the season.
“I don’t care that they’re a League 2 team, it’s a mentality you have to have.
“We were excellent for the first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes, and in the middle hour? Poor.
“But this is the FA Cup. The weather was horrible, and the pitch made it very difficult.”
Robinson admitted his side were poor for a long period of the game and far from their usual selves. But he stopped short of naming the players he felt had particularly bad days.
He said: “It wasn’t just the players who came off. There were players who stayed on who were equally disappointing, but that’s football. Collectively, we worked hard but individually we lacked the cutting edge.
“Northampton had the middle area of the pitch and did very well. They pressed us really well, so we dropped and tried to play a little bit longer rather than retaining the ball.
“After going 1-0 up, we went off it a little bit. But the most important thing is that we’re in the hat for the draw on Monday night.
“Football is swings and roundabouts. Today we might have ridden our luck, but that’s only because of our work ethic all season. Chris’ team has just shown why they’re at the top end of League 2.
“In a local derby away from home when we haven’t been at our best, against a team that are flying, we’re not out. That’s important for me.”