If ever Dons needed the personification of what it is going to take to stay in the Championship, they should look no further than Alex Revell’s performance in the 2-0 win over Queens Park Rangers.
He didn’t score, he only had two decent opportunities on goal, he didn’t even get to take one of the two penalties, but Revell’s wanton desire not to be on the losing side is a characteristic that needs to be reflected in the rest of the squad for the next 11 games.
Dons were getting into a nasty habit recently, one of switching off late in the day. Revell, offered up to the media after games against Huddersfield and Blackburn, first urged for Dons to learn from their mistakes, and then demanded they be men after yet another disappointment. Against QPR, Dons appeared to have taken his comments on board, and he was at the forefront of it all.
Winning everything launched in his direction, Revell pressed from the front, making the Rangers defence uneasy and rushed. Although the first half was something of a drab affair, it was exactly how Dons had planned it to be.
A striker’s primary job though is to score. Dons scored five minutes into the second half, but Revell had two good chances before Dean Lewington’s opener. Climbing highest, Revell’s header looped up and over R’s keeper Alex Smithies, but Nedum Onouha was on the line to spare his blushes. And though he’s tall, Revell wasn’t quite tall enough to reach Josh Murphy’s low ball to the near post; his slide missing the ball by inches.
Saturday was only his sixth appearance in an MK Dons shirt since signing from Cardiff City on transfer deadline day, but already, Revell is a firm fans’ favourite, and a large part of that is down to the desire he shows, even when a cause looks lost.
As Dons came under a bit of QPR pressure late in the day, it gave an all-too familiar feel. But Revell was living by the lessons he preached. Watching a ball pinged into the corner for the Rangers defence to back-track to retrieve, Revell got his head down, gritted his teeth and sprinted 30 yards, chasing down Paul Konchesky, not giving the veteran defender time to pick a pass, instead picking out the touchline to earn Dons a throw.
Minutes later, he was at it again, this time in his own half, chasing down Abdenasser El Khayati to prevent another Rangers attack.
Karl Robinson has prided himself on the youth and enthusiasm of his attacking sides, with seven of his side under 24 on Saturday. But each one of them, still learning the ways of the Championship, will have learned a real lesson of what it is going to take to keep Dons out of the bottom three, of what it takes to be a professional footballer at this level, and what they should be doing themselves.
While Revell’s performance was one of a man significantly younger than his years, there’s no escaping the 32-year-old’s limitations. Playing three games in a week is tough for anyone, and especially for someone who hasn’t played a lot of football this season.
Nicky Maynard, another known chaser of lost causes, is likely to start against Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night in one of the season’s most pivotal games. Given a watching brief on Saturday, Maynard, not short of his experience himself, was shown exactly what he needs to do at The Valley if Dons are to get anything from their relegation rivals.
Though the striker may not end the season as Dons’ top scorer, if they stay up, the signing of Alex Revell could yet prove to be the most important moment of this season.