Nicky Maynard believes he can be the man to keep MK Dons in the Championship.
There is a great weight of expectancy and responsibility on Maynard’s shoulders at stadium:mk. Having been brought in out of the cold by Karl Robinson, having been released from Saturday’s opponents Cardiff City in the summer, the striker is beginning to find his feet, and the back of the net, in the lone striker role.
Opening the scoring against his former club in the 2-1 win, Maynard showed his keen eye for goal as he netted from a quick, instinctive shot from his first real sight of goal, five minutes into the second half to open the scoring.
The game looked to be heading towards a draw when Craig Noone scored a screamer for Cardiff 10 minutes from time. But Josh Murphy’s winner in the last minute ensured Maynard would be on the winning side against his former club.
He said: “I’ve still got a lot of friends at Cardiff, but I’m an MK Dons player and someone who wants to score goals, so whether it was against Cardiff or anyone, it was just as sweet.
“We weren’t at the races in the first half. We had to dig deep, and we were lucky to keep it 0-0 at half time. We knew it wasn’t good enough, but we came out in the second half and deserved the win.
“As a striker, you shoot when you get the opportunity. I didn’t get many in the first half, so the first chance I got I took and it was nice to see it in the back of the net.”
It was a chance he was barely afforded in the Welsh capital. Making just 10 starts for the Bluebirds in his three years at the club, Maynard’s career at Cardiff was stunted by a cruciate ligament injury which ruled him out of the game for eight months.
Returning under new management, in a new division and with even more players vying for his position, Maynard found the opportunity to make inroads difficult.
“A lot of clubs labelled me as injury prone,” he said. “It wasn’t the case. I had one bad injury at Cardiff and was out for eight months. During that time, new players came in, a new manager too.
“I never really got my fair share of game time, sitting on the bench and not coming on, sometimes not even in the squad. Some people thought I was still injured but that wasn’t the case. I’m glad I got away from there in a way because I can start over. Hopefully, I’m proving everybody wrong.”
Released at the end of his contract, Maynard admitted he felt he would be inundated with offers in the Championship and League 1, giving him a chance to restart a career which offered so much promise. But while Blackburn and Nottingham Forest took a look before saying ‘no thanks,’ Dons boss Karl Robinson offered him a shot - one he has taken with both hands.
Not joining up with the squad until mid-September, Maynard took a while to find his goal-scoring form. Now with three to his name, Robinson believes Maynard could be the latest gem in the collection, and could even keep Dons in the Championship if he hits a rich vein of form.
“The belief we have is that we are good enough to stay up,” said the striker. “We have to prove that on the pitch. We’ve been playing well without getting three points.
“I think I’m getting there (in terms of fitness), I’ve played a lot of minutes lately. I feel a lot better, and I can only get better as the games come.
“I feel a lot sharper, the chances are coming and it’s about me taking them and keeping MK Dons in the Championship.”