What a difference three days makes

Karl Robinson
Karl Robinson

From the highs of Saturday and Patrick Bamford’s late winner, Tuesday’s drab 1-0 defeat to Carlisle came as stark contrast.

More than 10,000 fans roared on as Bamford’s 12th goal of the season flew in to the net, the winner in a thrilling 3-2 against Rotherham.

But fast forward three days, and the team was almost unrecognisable.

David Martin and Stephen Gleeson were missing from the Carlisle starting 11 through injury, and Shaun Williams was suspended, but no-one could have predicted the huge effect it’d have on the team.

Without them, Dons looked stale. Despite being made up of players capable of firing up a crowd and the team around them, the midfield lacked urgency, tempo and it was reflected in the stands.

Carlisle barely attacked in the 90 minutes. Ian McLoughlin was a spectator for most of the evening, but in the 34th minute was helpless to stop former Dons midfielder Lewis Guy’s surprising volley after another former Don, David Amoo’s misjudged shot looked to be heading towards the corner flag.

And though they didn’t trouble the keeper any further until the final five minutes, Dons kept Carlisle keeper Mark Gillespie unoccupied during the course of the match.

Even referee Andy D’Urso had trouble getting involved as Dons ambled their way to half time, stroking the ball around almost aimlessly.

With no signs of life after five minutes in the second half, Robinson readied George Baldock, Luke Chadwick and Izale McLeod, withdrawing Samir Carruthers, Lee Hodson and Jason Banton.

Of the seven on the bench, the trio coming on were the most likely to make a change. But in the case of McLeod, neither he nor strike partner Bamford were getting anything worthy of being called service - so much so that Bamford played much of the second half dropping deep to see some of the ball.

The thunder, lightning and rain-storm provided something of a lights show for the fans, growing ever more frustrated with that was happening, or more aptly happening, on the field.

Though the rain would have held up Dons’ usual slick passing style, they showed no signs of it in the first half even before the weather moved in.

As the clock ticked down, the fans grew ever-more agitated. Their frustration was met with frustration on the field too. But the trio of Tom Flanagan, Jon Otsemobor and Darren Potter continued to stroke the ball around calmly among themselves.

With Baldock hugging the right flank in a bid to stretch the game, he was left to watch as ball after ball sailed over his head into the stands - his manager in the technical area was picked out with more switch passes than he was.

Carlisle substitute Danny Livesey woke the crowd up from their slumber with five minutes plus stoppage time to play when he capitalised on a corner not fully cleared, but failed to deliver the killer blow as he saw his strike clatter McLoughlin’s cross bar.

The full-time whistle was met with incredulous applause and a handful of boos from those who stuck around until the bitter end, seeing their side drop as low as 10th in League 1.

While the missing trio are likely to return for Saturday’s trip to Prenton Park and lowly Tranmere Rovers, Robinson’s acknowledgement that his squad isn’t good enough to cope with yet another injury-caused drama means that even being picked at the weekend doesn’t guarantee a future at the club.

Something needs to change, and fast.