DEAN Lewington knows exactly which end of the table he would rather be playing at after Dons’ remarkable start to the league 1 season.
The captain has experienced both relegation and promotion with the club, and while both bring pressures on the players, Lewington knows which one he prefers as Dons prepare for their huge home clash with promotion rivals Huddersfield on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of pressure at the top of the table, but I’ve been at the bottom end and it’s much nicer than it was down there!” he said.
“We’ll keep doing what we can do for as long as is possible. It’s important that you’re not chasing teams. It’s nicer to have teams trying to catch you, and being nearer the top gives you that bit of room should you have a dip in form.
“We have made a very positive start to the season. We’ve had a lot of victories and we’re set in the way we want to play. We’ve enjoyed victories on the road as well as at home, so it’s pleasing.”
But while Dons’ impressive form sees them at the sharp end of the table, Lewington is concerned that, having conceded eight goals in seven games, the defence still needs to improve.
He said: “We’ve kept a few clean sheets, but when we’ve conceded, we’ve conceded a few, so it’s still something we need to work on.
“It’s only the first month though and we’re still learning, but it’s something we’re always looking to improve.”
The summer departures of Sean O’Hanlon and Danny Woodards have forced Dons manager Karl Robinson into a defensive shuffle, with Adam Smith joining on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, while midfielder Shaun Williams has filled in at centre back, although is expected to make way for another loanee, Mark Beevers, who joined on transfer deadline day from Sheffield Wednesday.
And while half of the back four has changed, Lewington thinks the new faces have settled in well and made the transition easy, even if the defensive options are giving his boss a bit of a headache.
“Everyone can see how good Adam is, he’s a really great full back and we’re lucky to have him here,” said Lewington. “Playing for the England U21s shows how good he is.
“And Shaun has come into a position he’s not familiar with, but I think with the football we play, he can fit in really well.
“Beevers has shown in one game that he’s an old fashioned centre back, like Gary MacKenzie he wins his headers, but is decent on the floor.
“Adam Chicksen has come in too and done well, so it’s giving the manager some headaches that he didn’t really have last season.
“You aren’t always going to be at your best, but at places like Exeter and Yeovil you have that steel and determination to grind results out, whereas in the past, we wouldn’t have had that and we’d lose.
“It’s important to treat every game as it comes, but it’s also important that you’ve got the players who will roll up their sleeves and get the job done.”
The skipper opened his goal scoring account for the season at Carlisle after a terrific give-and-go with Charlie MacDonald, putting Dons 3-1 up at Brunton Park.
His attacking tendencies have been encouraged this season by Robinson and assistant John Gorman as part of Dons’ new style of play. And the 27-year-old says he’s enjoying his more advanced role, and hopes he contribute a few more goals this season.
He said: “It doesn’t happen very often, but hopefully with the way we play it will become more of a regular occurrence!
“I’m really enjoying it my role, It’s something I’d like to do more. It’s part of my game, and the way we pass and move the ball, it’s natural for the full-backs to get the ball out wide, and I enjoy it.
“You always enjoy attacking more than defending, and it’s good to be up there, influencing the game a bit more with shots and crosses or by setting up chances.”
Dons tasted league defeat for the first time against Sheffield Wednesday last Saturday, and face an equally tough task this Saturday as Huddersfield Town visit stadium:mk.
Last season saw Huddersfield do the double over Dons, and the west Yorkshire side are currently enjoying a remarkable 33-game unbeaten run, including a superb 3-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Tuesday night.
However, Lewington believes his side are the ones who can knock them off their perch, kick-starting Dons’ season after last Saturday’s disappointment.
“It’s a fantastic game coming up,” he said. “They’re on a long unbeaten streak and we’d love to end that.
“They beat us here last year so we want to reverse that, and it’d be nice to get the three points.
“They are the sort of side they can set your yardstick by to see how much we’ve improved on last season.”