MK DONS face arguably one of their toughest challenges of the season on Saturday – taking on a Swindon Town side barely recognisable to the one they last met in April 2011.
Under the temporary management of Paul Hart following Danny Wilson’s resignation, Swindon were on their way to being relegated from League 1 when County Ground old boy Sean O’Hanlon headed the only goal in a 1-0 away win, keeping Dons on course for the play-offs.
Dons had earlier won the corresponding fixture at stadium:mk when Wilson’s men went down 2-1 in August – Sam Baldock netting twice after Swindon had opened the scoring.
Just one Swindon player to have featured in that 1-0 defeat last April – winger Matt Ritchie – started their most recent game on Tuesday night, underlining the level of change instigated by current chief Paolo Di Canio.
For the record, six Dons players who took part in the 1-1 draw at Bournemouth also featured at the County Ground that day.
While Karl Robinson’s men were grinding out what could prove to be a valuable point on the south coast, the Robins were giving fellow League 1 new boys Crawley Town a good 3-0 beating, with that man Ritchie bagging the opening goal in front of a healthy crowd of 7,658.
That made it four points from their first two games for Di Canio’s men who drew 0-0 at Hartlepool on the opening Saturday. And under the sometimes charismatic, sometimes controversial Italian boss, Swindon are one of the favourites to win promotion out of League 1 – in their first season back in it.
After losing seven of his first 13 League 2 games in charge last season, Swindon and Di Canio went on a 15-match unbeaten run to put them in with a shout of going up. And after breaking a club record by winning 10 consecutive league games, they were well clear of the chasing pack and promotion was all but secure in March.
They may have made a good start to this season too, but the Swindon camp isn’t a completely happy and united one if reports of a public falling out between Di Canio and former captain Paul Caddis are anything to go by.
Defender Caddis made more than 50 appearances for the club last term but has been stripped of his captaincy in favour of Alan McCormack – cue lots of dirty laundry being aired in public by both sides.
Swindon have also controversially allowed former Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick to train with them following his release from prison, but have now “ended their association” with him.
Unsurprisingly Caddis hasn’t featured for Swindon in their opening two games, but his team-mates will still provide Dons with one of the toughest away trips they will face this season – four days after going through the mill at Bournemouth.
If Dons can also emerged from Swindon with a point, then it will probably prove to be another one gained, rather than two dropped.