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This week, Dons columnist Dominic Damesick says he isn’t giving up on the season quite yet.
The season is not dead yet. For the Dons to secure a play-off place for a third consecutive season still looks an extremely tall order, but six points from two games over the Easter weekend has kept alive the faint hope that a promotion campaign might still be resurrected.
The two wins against Hartlepool and Brentford were extremely pleasing in terms of the valuable points they delivered, but also for the spirit, heart and bravery shown by Robinson’s side. I have questioned the team’s mental strength on a few occasions this season, but in the last two games the side have relied on determination and resilience, as much as quality, to secure victory.
Stephen Gleeson is a case in point. The Dons’ stand-in skipper looked well short of his best against both Hartlepool and Brentford, often sloppy in possession and heavy in the touch, but still worked tirelessly, showed tremendous fight and popped up with the crucial second goal against the Bees. Alan Smith may no longer have the Midas touch he seemed blessed with many years ago, as a young lad starting out at Elland Road, but his commitment to the cause cannot be doubted, and he shows great fearlessness on the field of play.
The list goes on: Ryan Lowe, who seems to have endless reserves of energy; Adam Chicksen, who played through the pain barrier against Brentford to ensure that a patched-up Dons’ back-line was not depleted further; Mathias Doumbe, who has come into the heart of defence after a long spell on the sidelines and produced two imperious performances.
Of course, there can be no pleasing some fans, who think the wins have come too late, or who believe the Dons only win games because the opposition conspire to be worse than the useless bunch of so-called ‘footballers’ that Karl Robinson (arguably the worst manager in the Football League) has cobbled together into a gaggle hardly representing a team. Fans such as that are weak of will, and fickle in their loyalties.
They cushion against any possible sense of disappointment or failure with an unedifying ‘I told you so’ mentality, that seeks to emphasise every flaw and condemn every shortcoming, unable (or unwilling) to recognise the side’s strengths, and seemingly incapable of garnering any enjoyment from a football match that does not end in a 5-0 victory for the Dons.
The Brentford game was testing for the Dons, games against the top sides often are, but the fact that the visitors had the hosts on the back foot for periods of the game, or fashioned some openings, is not an indication that the Dons were useless, just that football games involve two teams with an opposition that have their own strengths and capabilities.
Of course, these same fans will be there when times are good too, lapping up the glory and the plaudits alongside those more loyal, resilient souls who patiently endured the difficult periods, kept a smile on their faces in bleak moments and, crucially, continued to support their team at all times.
The loyal fan is far more vulnerable, and with it brave, able to acknowledge real disappointment and heartache without attempting to cushion the blow with some sort of perverse victory that champions predicting failure, with a smug smile that indicates that while the Dons lost, one’s own stock as a football guru (of unrelenting misery) has risen.
I hope to see those smug faces come the end of the season, though, for it would be a small price to pay for the success that Karl Robinson and his side have shown they are capable of and, in the last two games, potentially worthy of.