On the most romantic day of the year, MK Dons fans can wake up with a smile on their faces.
Their present wasn’t sweet like a box of chocolates, didn’t smell like flowers or expensive perfume and the card wasn’t especially stand-out, but the message inside was just about as good as they could have wanted.
Four fixtures in two weeks, three in seven days, one against the champions, one against the Championship leaders, two trips to teams who rarely slip up at home.
Nothing was expected from the Chelsea game. The romance of the FA Cup came two weeks too early and had the potential to leave Dons feeling like they’d been dumped by someone out of their league in the MK1 car park.
A pitch inspection threatened to make a weekend break trip to Cardiff a total bust, while Middlesbrough’s late equaliser popped up like an awkward case of the ex. But neither incident managed to derail the real romantic gesture. In fact, they added to it.
The new relationship Dons are forming with the Championship is growing ever stronger. The honeymoon period is far behind them, they are over the awkward ‘getting to know you’ phase, and now they’re looking to make it a long term thing.
Jake Forster-Caskey’s 82nd minute free kick to secure all three points at Derby County on Saturday was potentially harsh on the home side. Their own relationship is on the rocks: either desperate to cling on to something in the second tier, or afraid to take the plunge with the wanton desires of the Premier League. Regardless, it left Dons with the opportunity to snatch the last rose in the florist just before closing time.
Over the course of the last week, Dons have managed to distance themselves from their frowned upon flirtation with the relegation zone. Just a week ago, few could have predicted a haul of five points from nine, each one proving more vital than the last as Robinson’s men lifted themselves away from the femme fatale. The last seven days has been one of the most intense periods in the relationship, but it culminated in an almost perfect Valentine’s Day present - breathing space.
While safety is a vixen that most in the Championship will partner up with come May, Dons still need to wine and dine her to be invited back for a second date in August. And it starts again next week against teams equally desperate to send them back into the arms of the relegation zone.