Forget play-offs, Robbo wants automatic promotion

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SOME argue that the play-offs is the best way of going up - but Karl Robinson wants none of the drama and has instead set his sights on automatic promotion this season.

Dons have lost just once in their last 14 games - a run that has seen them leap up into a relatively safe fifth place in League One.

Second place and the final automatic promotion position is currently held by Huddersfield who remain five points clear of Dons, but the sides will do battle in late April at stadium:mk.

And Robinson has set his sights on automatic promotion, starting with this Saturday’s clash against another of their promotion rivals, Southampton, who sit fourth.

“At the beginning of the season we set our stall out to go up automatically and I’m not going to divert away from that,” said Robinson.

“We have the belief in ourselves that we can achieve something great and if we fall short, at least we can say we’ve had a right good go at it.”

Dons go into Saturday’s clash at Southampton having not won at St Mary’s stadium in three attempts.

But their result at stadium:mk earlier in the season - a 2-0 victory in Nigel Adkins’ first match in charge of the Saints - will give Robinson’s men confidence in what is a promotion six-pointer.

Dons will also draw on their great wins against Peterborough and Brighton in the last month as proof that they can hold their own against the division’s big boys.

Robinson said: “It’s going to be very tough on Saturday. We have been there before and we’ve been embarrassed.

“We are a different team to the one we were last season - same players, but a different team. And we’re fully focused on getting the win at Southampton.

“It will be a really good clash and one that our players are really relishing.”

Last Friday’s 1-1 draw at home to Walsall was a much-needed wake-up call for Dons after they won five on the bounce before that, including that huge win over Posh four days earlier.

But with the rest of the weekend’s results going their way, Robinson isn’t too concerned about only picking up a point against the Saddlers.

“The performance wasn’t too bad,” he said. “We got so hyped up after the fantastic result against Peterborough and the expectation levels rose. But we’re still unbeaten and on any other day we could have scored three or four.

“I’d have been more concerned if it was 1-1 and we didn’t create any chances. But in the end we came away from the two games with four points.

“We are still in there and still fighting, and results have gone our way since then.”

Friday night’s game marked the return of Angelo Balanta after four months on the sidelines. The winger, on loan from QPR, picked up an ankle injury in November’s game against Brentford, but was back in action as a substitute against Walsall and arguably had a goal chalked off for not crossing the line.

And with Keanu Marsh-Brown, Luke Chadwick, Daniel Powell, Rowan Vine and Lewis Guy all vying for roles in midfield, Robinson is delighted to have selection headaches in a position that Dons struggled to fill just 12 months ago.

“It’s brilliant,” he said. “We have so many attacking options and players who are capable of playing in different positions.

“I’m hoping to have Keanu back on the bench on Saturday and everyone else is fighting fit. Angelo is still getting there.

“He showed glimpses on Friday of what he can do, but there are still areas where he’s rusty, but you’re always going to get that when players have been out for a long time.

“But just to have him back on the bench is great. It was an area last season where we didn’t have enough, the players tired, and we didn’t have enough energy or that spark.

“But it’s a brilliant headache to have before a big game.”