Robbo’s enduring his toughest year so far

MK Dons vs Peterborough
MK Dons vs Peterborough

From injuries and problems with the pitch to loan recalls and refereeing decisions, Karl Robinson admits he’s having the toughest season of his managerial career.

Defeat on Saturday to Peterborough was Dons’ 14th of the League 1 season, and while they remain seventh, they are now six points from the all-important final play-off spot.

The squad which took to the field on the season’s opening day fixture against Shrewsbury features six names which are no longer at the club, and two who have been ruled out for the rest of the season.

An incredible 31 players have put minutes in on the field for Karl Robinson’s side this season, nine of which have been loanees and four more have sat on the bench without coming on.

But, once more, the situation with injuries has been the biggest bane for Robinson.

“It has been the toughest year in charge, along with the back end of last season,” he said.

“Last year, we set our stall out what a team we felt was very competitive.

“And in December that year, we were two points from second and everything was on course. But in one training session we lost Stephen Gleeson and Luke Chadwick.

“Then we lost Bowditch, Powell and Martin - but it continued this season too.

“It has been the most difficult because we’re so thin on the ground.

“Hopefully, I’ve shown my worth this season. I’ve had to show a new tactical side, and more awareness in elements of the job I’ve never had to show before. I’ve had to dig deep. But I think I’ve stood up to the task very well.”

Despite the challenges though, Dons still aren’t out of the play-off equation.

Although the gap is six points to Peterborough, who still have a game in hand, Dons are still in with a chance with nine games to go.

All season long, the manager and his players have been coy on revealing their ambitions for the season.

But Robinson admitted it’ll be a huge achievement if Dons finish the season in the top 10.

He said: “If we can stay in the top 10 and keep challenging for the top six, we’ll have swam the Channel.

“But I like the challenge and we’ll go as far as we can.

“Who’d have guessed we’d still be in the mix? All credit has to go to the players.

“I’ve had to criticise them, I’ve had to pat them on the back, they’ve had to criticise each other, and pat each other on the back too.

“But the passion is there to play for the club. And that’s got us here, against the odds.”

Dons certainly won’t have it easy on Saturday as they take on another local rival, this time in the form of Stevenage.

Robinson’s comments after the 2-1 defeat in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy touched a nervy with Stevenage manager Graham Westley, prompting him to write a retaliatory piece in a national newspaper, blasting the Dons boss for taking ‘cheap shots’ at his club.

But Robinson said he isn’t expecting fireworks when he meets his counter-part at the Lamex Stadium on Saturday, but still expects a fierce match.

He said: “I think me and Graham have made up. He read my comments and took them in the wrong context.

“He did what he had to do, I spoke to him on the phone and everyone was understanding.

“People think we hate each other. I’ve got no grievance with anyone really. I’m very respectful of what he’s done as a manager. It’s a hard job, this.

“Our games against Stevenage are always very exciting.

“I enjoy challenges like this, and it allows us to put the demons of Peterborough to bed so quickly.”