The only way is up in 2011... well, hopefully

editorial image

THE new year looks set to be a time for playing catch-up for our three biggest sports clubs - with MK Dons, MK Lions and MK Lightning all off the pace in the search for honours in their respective competitions.

And what makes it harder to take for the city’s leading football, basketball and ice hockey teams is that all went into their seasons hoping for far better.

The League One table didn’t make for very good Christmas reading for Dons chairman Pete Winkelman, who would have hoped for better than a mid-table place going into the second half of the season.

However, a productive festive period after the big thaw and successive 2-0 wins against Bournemouth and Bristol Rovers have seen Karl Robinson’s men catapulted back into contention for the play-off places.

A hectic January and February - with matches backed up after the big freeze - is likely to sort the men from the boys, and the new year’s transfer window is likely to be crucial in determining which teams will last the pace.

A new striker will be high on the wish list for Robinson in the January window after Aaron Wilbraham followed in the footsteps of Jermaine Easter by leaving stadium:mk for a Championship club in a loan deal which looks likely to become permanent.

The Dons boss will be hoping that the departure of those two will free up some funds to bolster his strike force when it needs it most - Dons have only scored three times once in the league this term and goals have dried up of late.

The emergence of Daniel Powell has been a major positive in recent months and he could be set for a leading role in the second half of the campaign, while the pressure will be on senior strikers Sam Baldock and Jabo Ibehre to lead the line and ultimately supply the goals come what may.

The midfield and defence have been stepping up to the plate recently, with Peter Leven and Mathias Doumbe in particular chipping in. But Robinson can’t afford to just rely on goals from other areas of the pitch to supply the goals. If Dons are to make the top six then they need new blood up front, or one of their current crop to become a hero.

MK Lions are in a similar situation of needing their players to perform to the top of their game if they are to extend their season.

The British Basketball League outfit are well off the pace when it comes to chasing the Championship title, but the top eight and a place in the post-season play-offs is within reach.

It’s been a turbulent few months for the club who moved back to the city in November, and early exits from both cup competition were a major blow.

It’s probably too soon to suggest that head coach Mike New is under pressure - the former player will surely be given time to try and build a successful team - but a good new year is a must.

And also in need of a pick-me-up in 2011 are MK Lightning, who would have realised how far off the title pace they are in the English Premier League when being humbled by leaders Manchester Phoenix.

That 5-2 away defeat followed on the back of a disappointing home display in which they laboured to a 2-1 win against Swindon Wildcats. The reigning league champions will need a miracle to retain their crown, as predicted by coach Nick Poole at the start of the season.