Nicholls isn't playing the numbers game

Lee Nicholls
Lee Nicholls

He racked up his 150th league appearance recently, but Lee Nicholls isn’t worried about numbers yet.

The Dons keeper admitted he wasn’t aware of his landmark, and that he was approaching 50 clean sheets kept in the league, until he was tagged in a tweet by the club, where he has made 73 league starts since 2016.

Nicholls denies Northampton's Daniel Powell

Nicholls denies Northampton's Daniel Powell

However, while he can’t quite remember every game, he has a knack of remembering the goals he has conceded.

“I’d like to think I’ve got a long memory, but I probably remember every goal I’ve conceded but I couldn’t tell you every save I’ve made,” he said.

“I think when I retire and I’ll look back and (landmark achievements) will mean a lot to me, something I can tell my kids, but at the moment, it’s just about playing the next game and keeping my place.”

Into his third season at Stadium MK, Nicholls is already onto his fourth manager in Paul Tisdale.

Nicholls and goalkeeping coach Mel Gwinnett

Nicholls and goalkeeping coach Mel Gwinnett

Signed from Wigan Athletic by Karl Robinson, his U10s coach at Liverpool, he was understudy to David Martin before taking his chance under Robbie Neilson to become the club’s number one choice following Martin’s departure after seven years as the starter at the club.

He said: “I felt like I was still seen as a kid at Wigan, so I felt it was good for my career.

“Robbie then came in and gave me my opportunity, told me I’d be his number one for the following year to get me ready.

“I then played last season, my first year as a parent club number one and it felt quite weird. I’d worked so hard to get there.

“And now Tis has come in and he wants me to be number one as well.

“I felt I did alright last season but (coach) Mel Gwinnett told me I could have done better. And that’s what I needed to be honest, a kick up the backside.”

That motivation under Gwinnett has given Nicholls a better understanding of his role in the side, and has also given him a chance to improve his game.

Nicholls added: “As the season has gone on, I’ve grown, I’ve become more confident, we’ve started to build partnerships in the defence and as a unit, we’ve come on leaps and bounds from pre-season.

“Personally, I feel I’ve been OK this season.

“At the start, I wasn’t the goalkeeper Mel wanted me to be, I think I’m starting to understand and learn what he wants from me.

“I’m stepping my game up and I hope there’s another level in me.”