Now is the time for Dons to prove their worth

Dons celebrate their 6-1 victory on Saturdya. Will they be celebrating again on May 3?
Dons celebrate their 6-1 victory on Saturdya. Will they be celebrating again on May 3?

It is now time to put up or shut up for MK Dons.

After 43 League 1 games, 24 wins and 90 goals, Karl Robinson’s men find themselves on the brink of the Championship - all that stands in their way is Preston North End.

In a season long war, the sides are separated by just a point as they vie for the final automatic promotion spot with three games to go.

At the beginning, Dons weren’t fancied much. Their summer recruitment was conducted early, but it was astute. Two big name strikers in Will Grigg and Benik Afobe were added to the squad list on season-long loan deals, but a midtable finish was still predicted. It hasn’t gone that way though.

Fast forward eight months, and Dons are on the edge of something historic. Dons haven’t been out of the play-off mixer, but it is only in the last couple of months that automatic promotion has been a distinct possibility.

A streak of eight unbeaten, ironically since the humbling 2-0 defeat to Preston at stadium:mk, and six wins out of seven has seen Dons move to within a point of Simon Grayson’s side, who are beginning to show cracks in what has been, until now, an impenetrable force.

Tonight, Dons take on Doncaster at stadium:mk and even though a big crowd is expected for the penultimate home game of the season, more than a fair share of eyes will be glued to their mobile phones as fans desperately seek any news from Meadow Lane in Nottingham.

“I think all the permutations have been written down,” said Karl Robinson on Monday. “People will be looking up who’s fit and who isn’t in the Notts County squad.

“We don’t want to be disrespectful to Preston in wanting them to lose. We want to chase them and be ahead of them come the end of the season. We have a lot of respect for Simon Grayson and everyone Preston.”

Fighting for their League 1 lives, Notts County play host to Preston knowing a win will lift them out of the relegation zone - expect a bigger fight than Leyton Orient put up on Saturday as they were drubbed 6-1 by a rampant Dons side.

For the duration of the recent run, Robinson has remained resolute - don’t worry about Preston, just keep winning. And that’s exactly what they have to do now. Three games, three wins.

Even that doesn’t guarantee anything though. If Preston do the same in their final three games, the solitary point they lead by will be enough to see them into the Championship, meaning Dons will need to do it all over again, this time in the play-offs.

But all Dons can do is win and keep up the pressure. In doing that, they can but hope for a Preston slip up under the pressure, blowing open the door for Dons to climb to the second tier.