No alarms and no surprises, please

MK Dons
MK Dons

Four games, seven points, five goals and two clean sheets - all MK Dons are missing from their Championship start is a partridge in a pear tree.

Far from the baptism of fire many expected, Dons have more than held their own in the second tier in the opening encounters.

While the goals of last season may not have risen to the surface as yet, the defensive displays, conceding only two goals, will breed confidence.

In fact, while taking on teams who can boast Premier League tenures in their not-too-distant past, Dons haven’t looked out of place at all. They’ve actually looked at home in the Championship.

Karl Robinson hasn’t shied away from the claims his side would be returning to League 1 at the first time of asking. In fact, he has drawn from it.

“People have tipped us to do down,” has almost been a stock phrase for the manager in his busier press conferences this season, and he will almost certainly use that defiance to spur on his players

But motivation shouldn’t be a problem at this level. While League 1 isn’t a league to be sniffed at, the Championship is an all-together different beast and one which demands more from players and management alike.

For players like David Martin, Dean Lewington and even Darren Potter - the stalwarts of the side - playing at this level is something they’ve strived for at the club for many a year. To finally reach that level and to fold like a house of cards won’t be in their remit.

For players like Ben Reeves and Samir Carruthers - the young guns - the Championship offers them the opportunity to showcase their skills to a much larger audience than they would’ve in League 1. If they have Premier League aspirations, whether it be with Dons or elsewhere, this is a platform for them to do so.

And the only way to do any of that is to perform.

Even during the 1-0 defeat to Preston, Dons haven’t been out-classed as yet, but it is a different style of play to the one fans got used to seeing in the league below.

It is far more patient in its approach, tentatively prodding before finding a decisive pass, keen not to lose the ball in midfield for threat of being hit on the counter.

And so far it has worked, but for the goal-scoring. To an extent, it’s to be expected. Losing the likes of Will Grigg, Dele Alli and Benik Afobe from the team removes the best part of 60 goals from the squad, and few, if many, can boast bringing in that level of firepower, let alone with no money.

Sam Gallagher and Simon Church have both had chances to open their Dons account, but as yet have failed to fire in the league, while Reeves and Carl Baker, a regular source of goals last season, have been in and out of the team through form and injury.

The signing of Josh Murphy from Norwich City may yet come up trumps, and the signings of Sergio Aguza and Cristian Benavente are yet to pay off, though nothing is expected of those two until mid-October when they’re fully up to speed in England.

The next few weeks will undoubtedly be a stern test for Robinson’s side, with the much fancied Middlesbrough and big-spending Burnley, who rubbed shoulders with the Premier League big boys last season, coming up after the international break.

But while defeats last season were a fairly painful, and meaningful, chalking one up in the losing column this season won’t necessarily be the end of the world for Dons.

But if they continue to mix it with the Championship establishment the way they have done so far, those predicting a basement battle may have to change their minds sooner rather than later.