Saying ‘sorry’ isn’t always easy, especially when your mistake is in front of millions all over the world but Kyle McFadzean has stuck out his broad chest and got on with business.
His poor back pass gifted Chelsea their opener in the FA Cup fourth round clash two weeks ago, but rather than shy away, he took to Twitter to apologise to MK Dons fans for his error.
However inconsequential it turned out to be, the defender has repaid them with three excellent performances at the heart of the back four, helping Dons to five points in a week when few would have expected even one.
“After the Chelsea game, I was beating myself up a bit too much,” McFadzean said. “I let myself down.
“But since then I’ve concentrated, got my head down and I feel in the last three matches I’ve been back to normal. As a team, it’s looking really good at the moment.”
Away trips to Cardiff City and Derby County sandwiched a home clash against table-topping Middlesbrough, and all three brought about different challenges for the Dons defence.
While they had three points cruelly snatched from them in the 93rd minute against Boro, Dons’ defence was very much on top on Saturday as they held on to beat Derby with a late strike of their own.
McFadzean said: “We had to work for it, but it was a good team performance and now we’re going in the right direction.
“Coming to a place like Derby, you’ve got to give them credit for where they are in the league. They’ve spent some real money too. We had to dig in in the first half, but we felt it could open up like it did against Middlesbrough.
“We worked really hard for it on Tuesday night but it was taken away from us in the 93rd minute. But I think here it was fully deserved.”
In the first half of the season, Dons’ defence almost picked itself. But since the turn of the year, it has been given a new lease of life with the introduction of not new but familiar personnel. Joe Walsh, finally putting his injury woes behind him, has moved in alongside McFadzean at centre half, while George Baldock’s return from his loan spell at Oxford has seen him too go straight in at right back.
And the new look defence has let in just one goal - that late Jordan Rhodes header - in three outings together. But that’s not just down to the defence, but a new way of playing, says McFadzean.
“It started from the front, and we’ve been working on that because usually we are a bit open. We’ve been in the Championship for a bit now, and we’ve realised we have to change how we play against the bigger teams. But against the teams around us we feel we can open up and play our own football and get the results there as well.
“We looked at the fixtures and thought it was going to be a tough week. We worked on some new things in training, but I felt it has really worked.
“George (Baldock) has done really well, but I felt Jordan (Spence) had too. George has come back and it is like he has never been away. He has made that place his own.
“Joe (Walsh) has come in and done well too, and Lewie has been outstanding recently too.
“The gaffer has worked his socks off behind the scenes. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s got his style, but even he has realised sometimes you have to change the way you play. He’s learning as much as we have.”
While taking on the teams pushing for promotion provides a huge challenge for Dons, the big games keep on coming. Their next three fixtures are against Bristol City, Huddersfield Town and Blackburn Rovers - three teams who are in and around their battle at the other end of the table. And it provides a different, but equally difficult challenge, something McFadzean and his team-mates have had to get used to since winning promotion.
“It’s tough every week,” he added. “Last year, we knew if we dropped our levels, we’d probably get away with it. Now, if we drop our levels, we get beat three or four.
“We’ve realised that, we’re stronger as a group with the new players the gaffer has brought in and the team spirit is back. It was never really gone, but when you’re losing every week it makes it hard to get up.
“It’s always nice to go home with a win and be five points clear. We’re three unbeaten, but we need to win back-to-back games - it’s so important at this level. But it’ll be a tough week against Bristol City.”