Strong finish to a week of tough tests for Dons
MK Dons 1-0 Portsmouth
Putting Tuesday night's 4-0 thumping at the hands of Lincoln City to bed was one of the key takeaways for MK Dons as they saw off Portsmouth on Saturday.
It was always going to be a difficult week for Russell Martin's side. Taking on three teams fighting for a spot in the top six in the form of Ipswich Town, Lincoln City before Portsmouth's visit to Stadium MK, Dons' haul of four points from a possible nine doesn't make for bad reading on the grand scheme of things. A goal-less draw at Portman Road looked a strong result before the heavy loss at Sincil Bank left a bitter taste in the mouth heading into arguably the toughest of all the games at home to Portsmouth.
A much more assured and error-free Dons performance saw them return to winning ways on Saturday, with Scott Fraser's penalty the difference between the sides. The turnaround on the points has seen Dons climb into the top half again too with games against relegation battlers Bristol Rovers and Swindon Town coming up in the next seven days.
"If you look at the games we've just had, all of them around the play-off spots this week, it was always going to be a tough ask," said Martin. "When you're in and around midtable, it can be difficult to find the same intensity and motivation but I think we've found that.
"If you'd had offered four points from these three games, we'd have said it was a fair return. Obviously we'd have wanted more. But I'm really pleased to win today, we deserved it and I'm sure there was a lot of criticism thrown at the players and me after Tuesday night."
Fraser was extremely vocal after Dons' defeat against Portsmouth at Fratton Park back in September, also having scored a penalty, when he said he did not sign for the club to be battling relegation for the season. Fast-forward to the reverse fixture, and Fraser said Dons have come on leaps and bounds, but want to be fighting where the likes of Portsmouth, Lincoln and Ipswich are sooner rather than later.
He said: "(Portsmouth) are a good side, challenging where we want to be. We're building for next season, and these are the sorts of teams we want to compete against. I think we've done that this season. If you look at the top end of the table, we've done well against most of them.
"I spoke about our problems in the first game against Portsmouth, we've improved so much since then. We have to keep improving."
He added: "It was important to bounce back after the spell in the second half on Tuesday, and we did that - we got back to what we're good at.
"We're in the part of the league where we're not going up or down. It shows how far we've come as a team and a club that we're in No Man's Land. I don't want to coast in for the rest of the season. We've set ourselves goals and target, and we got off to a good start with that."