Too soon to say Dons have turned a corner?

Dean Lewington in action against Newport
Dean Lewington in action against Newport

No sooner were MK Dons tumbling out of the play-off spots for the first time in four months than they have reasserted themselves in League 2, back in the promotion hunt once more.

Speaking after his stand-out showing at Carlisle, Alex Gilbey said: "I think after our run, we needed that. Newport was the turn for me, we were brilliant there, and we've come here and shown our resilience."

But is it too early to call Newport a turning point?

Picking up just one point on their travels since the 4-0 win over Crawley on November 3, Dons faced back-to-back away days at Newport County and Carlisle last week - both teams with excellent home records. Both teams though would have to chalk up defeats to Paul Tisdale's side.

The torrid run since November, both at home and on the road, saw Dons slip from top to eighth following their 3-2 loss to Swindon at Stadium MK nine days ago. Few predicted a win at Newport, especially when Tisdale's radical team selection came to light. But a 1-0 win at Rodney Parade was backed up by a 3-2 win at Brunton Park, sending Dons back into the top four.

The win in Cumbria is as confident a performance seen from Dons in a long time. Unflustered by Carlisle's play down the flanks in the opening 45 minutes, Tisdale switched things at half time, playing a flat back-four, shutting down Carlisle's width, while adding the talismanic Chuks Aneke to his front line. Thereafter, Carlisle barely threatened.

It was a different showing to the one at Newport, which felt like a backs-to-the-wall win at times, while there were flashes of finding their feet again. The wins were different yet both equally as important, especially after Tisdale's rollicking of his players at Exeter two weeks prior.
Dons' form in October was the platform which saw them go from 13th to second in League 2. Until November, they had lost just once - to a last minute winner at leaders Lincoln - but they came unstuck after the Manager of the Month prize was handed out to Tisdale. They had won back-to-back games in late November, early December to send them top of the table, but won just twice more before heading to Wales last week.

The tight nature of League 2 has shown what a difference a week can make as Dons moved back within six points of Lincoln, who are unbeaten in seven but have drawn each of their last four. Stringing results together is always the key to a promotion winning campaign. If Dons can go on to win their next two games - ironically at home to both Newport and Crawley - then perhaps that night at Rodney Parade may be seen as a key date.

If nothing else though, the wins will prove to be huge morale boosters for the dressing room.

"It is better," Tisdale said. "You're dealing with human beings and young people who want to do well, so when you get a good result everyone has a spring in their step.

Alex Gilbey

Alex Gilbey

"It could be (a turning point) but you have to view every game like it could be. That's the core of preparation for the next game, thinking this could be the game that creates more momentum, but it could the the game where it goes wrong. That's really why the next game is the most important one.

"It has turned things around. Even forgetting the league table, we feel better about ourselves. We have been able to change the way we play during a game. Previously, we've done the same things because we haven't developed a new way yet, but we're doing that now. We're developing again. The players feel better I'm sure, and there's competition for places right across the team. Hopefully, we can mount a serious last few months to the season."