Blogs & Opinion


League One Spotlight:

Determined Dons

As part of Sky Sports' League One spotlight, Chris Burton catches up with MK Dons boss Karl Robinson and midfielder Darren Potter

League One Spotlight - League One Spotlight Posted 15th May 2012 view comments

On Tuesday night, the MK Dons head to Huddersfield Town's Galpharm Stadium with their season hanging in the balance.

A 2-0 reversal on home soil in the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final has left the Dons with a mountain to climb.

The Terriers have drawn a blank on just seven occasions this season, and only three times in front of their own supporters.

Karl Robinson: Setting his sights on Wembley and the League One play-off final

Karl Robinson: Setting his sights on Wembley and the League One play-off final

They also won 14 of their 23 games at the Galpharm during the regular season, losing just three.

Only third tier champions Charlton Athletic picked up more points on the road than the MK Dons, though, and they have arrived in West Yorkshire in confident mood.

Highly-rated coach Karl Robinson and Republic of Ireland international midfielder Darren Potter took time out of their preparations to have a word with Sky Sports' Chris Burton, and both feel anything is still possible.

Belief

Robinson said: "These situations have been turned around by lesser teams than us, so it's all set up perfectly. There are two teams that have to get it right - one will and one won't. We feel very confident that we can turn it around. It's a difficult scenario. Teams in the past have gone out looking for goals early on and find themselves too open and it's three within a matter of minutes. You have to make sure you get it right at both ends. We have got a game plan, a unity amongst us all, and we are all looking forward to the game."

Potter said: "We have got it all to do. We are 2-0 down and it's an uphill task, but it's a task we are looking forward to and we think we can overcome it. The Manchester City game was a case in point, they scored two goals in the last minute. If that doesn't give everybody belief, nothing ever will. We have got 90 minutes, we can't go chasing too early, but if we could get one in the first 20 minutes that would give us a big helping hand. But we have got 90 minutes to the get the goals and there will be no rush on our part."

The Dons' scoring record this season bodes well in their quest for goals, with the target found on two or more occasions in 17 fixtures - including one six and a couple of fives.

Robinson said: "I think we have averaged 2.2 goals per game, which is a tremendous goal ratio. We just feel that we can score goals from so many different areas of the pitch. We always feel a threat regardless of who we are playing against. We are very strong-minded as well. The game is going to be a great advert for League One and we are very much looking forward to taking part in it. We haven't beaten them yet. There is still room for us to go and get something from them. We are looking forward to it and this would be a great time to do it. We have to make sure that we approach the game in the right way and I'm sure the players we have got here will do that."

Potter said: "We have scored 90-plus goals throughout the season and in some games we have had three, fours and fives, so it's in no way beyond us. We know it's going to be a difficult task, but I think we are really prepared for it."

While the mood inside the Dons camp remains upbeat, the play-offs have not been kind to the club in the recent past - with this their third attempt to win the League One promotion lottery in the last four years.

Robinson said: "We have always found ourselves in difficult ties. Ironically, in the previous ones, the team that has beaten us has gone up - Scunthorpe and then Peterborough last year. People will probably say that if Huddersfield beat us they will be the team to go up because we always seem to be beaten by the team that goes up. We have never found ourselves in a final where we can pitch ourselves against the opposition then. People will say you are playing away, but that doesn't have a massive effect on the games nowadays. You look at the Champions League games, the teams that were playing away in the second leg are the teams that have ultimately won the tie. There is no away goal rule for us that can affect the tie, so it's just a game and you take it the way it is. We know what we have got to do."

Future

Potter said: "It is consistency but we want more, we want to get to the next level. Huddersfield want that as well, so it's all to play for. You can't look back at results and think what might have been, it's all about this game now. Saturday has gone and what has happened has happened. We just have to look at the task in hand, which is chasing a two-goal deficit. People say that when you go to certain grounds and you've had bad results it happens (it weighs on your mind), but you put that to the back of your mind. We are fully focused on the task in front of us and we are ready to go there knowing that we have to score three goals at least to stand a chance."

Whatever happens in midweek the Dons can take heart from their exploits in 2011/12, with another play-off appearance suggesting the future is bright for a club that has made no secret of its desire to grace the biggest stages in English football.

Asked if they would look back on the season fondly if it were to come to an end against Huddersfield, Robinson said: "I think we've got to. I think we've overachieved again. In the last two years we have achieved remarkable things and it's testament to the chairman, the players and the fans where we are. Now, whatever happens, we have to make sure we get things right for next season."

Potter added: "It would be a disappointment if we didn't get to Wembley, that's been our main objective and we've been looking at that from the outset. But if it does end, we will look back on the season with huge fondness. We have set plenty of records this season as a team, for the MK Dons, and I think we are progressing really well. If it does end, it will stand us in good stead for the future. Whatever happens, it is all about the future. If we do get ourselves out of this division things will be looking a lot rosier for next season, but if it does end we won't get too downhearted."

For Robinson, failure to secure promotion could spark another summer of uncertainty, with Sam Baldock's decision to leave for West Ham United in 2011 proving how difficult it can be to retain players once they have put themselves in the shop window.

He said: "It's difficult. It's getting harder and harder because there are teams spending a lot of money at this level. It's no coincidence that the four biggest-spending teams in the league are going for promotion, and finished in the top four. We have to make sure that we conduct ourselves in the right way and make sure that as a club we move forward. But we have overachieved and it's always going to be difficult to keep your players when you don't get the promotion that you think you deserve. For now, the future can wait, it's all about how the next game goes."

You can see how the MK Dons get on against Huddersfield Town by tuning in to Sky Sports 1 HD from 7.30pm.

back to top

Other Football Experts:

Latest Posts in Football:

Jamie Carragher

Carra: Drop Mario for Madrid

Jamie Carragher says Liverpool must leave out Mario Balotelli to get a result against Real Madrid in the Champions League....

Gary Neville

Nev: United not hitting heights

Gary Neville says Manchester United must not be afraid to “lump it forward” against Chelsea on Sunday....

Graeme Souness

Souness: City must adapt

Graeme Souness says Man City shouldn't play two strikers if they want the win they need in Moscow....

Latest News RSS feeds

Sky Sports Today

Reaction to Man Utd's 2-2 draw at West Brom, Champions League build-up plus breaking football news in our live blog.

Nev: United not hitting heights

Gary Neville says Manchester United must not be afraid to “lump it forward” against Chelsea on Sunday.

Souness: City must adapt

Graeme Souness says Man City shouldn't play two strikers if they want the win they need in Moscow.

Carra: Drop Mario for Madrid

Jamie Carragher says Liverpool must leave out Mario Balotelli to get a result against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

CSKA Moscow v Man City preview

Manchester City take on CSKA Moscow at an empty Arena Khimki in Champions League Group E on Tuesday (kick-off 5pm BST).

Features

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are closing in on Raul’s UEFA Champions League goalscoring record of 71

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are closing in on Raul’s UEFA Champions League goalscoring record of 71

With Barcelona and Real Madrid once again among the favourites for Champions League glory and El Clasico coming up this weekend, the rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo shows no signs of abating. There’s even a game between Argentina and Portugal in London next month.

West Brom 2 Man Utd 2: Five talking points including Saido Berahino, Robin van Persie and United's defence

West Brom 2 Man Utd 2: Five talking points including Saido Berahino, Robin van Persie and United's defence

West Brom led twice through fine goals from Stephane Sessegnon and Saido Berahino but each time were pegged back by equally impressive strikes from the visitors. Marouane Fellaini finally found the net for United with a superb finish before Daley Blind’s measured effort secured a point.

Champions League: From Caen to Roma via Lille, Rudi Garcia has beaten the odds and is ready for Bayern Munich

Champions League: From Caen to Roma via Lille, Rudi Garcia has beaten the odds and is ready for Bayern Munich

When Caen were promoted to the French top flight for the first time in their history in 1988, nobody gave them a chance. This was a league full of stars. A glance of the top scorers in Ligue 1 that season reveals the scale of the task: Papin, Hoddle, Weah, Blanc, Cantona and more.