Two promotion rivals go head to head this weekend as MK Dons face Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium, with only a point separating the two teams.
Karl Robinson’s side, off the back of a 1-0 win over Hartlepool United last week, travel to South Yorkshire with the aim of leapfrogging their rivals as they look to earn themselves an automatic spot heading into a busy schedule of festive games.
Donny’s form has stuttered of late and they have taken only one point from their last two games, after winning four on the spin, which included a surprise 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Coventry City a week ago.
The Dons, though, have failed to record a victory over the Rovers in four previous meetings and assistant manager Mick Harford is fully aware of the difficult task the team face against a side managed by somebody very familiar to the former Chelsea and Derby striker.
Speaking before the game, Harford said: “I know their manger Dean (Saunders) very well. I played with him for a couple of years at Derby and he’s a great lad and was a great finisher – he was the life and soul of our Derby team at the time.
“He’s a great character as well and he’s doing well at Doncaster and I’m sure he’ll be a huge success in management and I hope he is too, after this weekend of course.
“I’m sure we’ll get a reaction from them after their result last weekend. They’re a good team with a good, experienced squad a lot of whom were with them in the Championship last year.
“I watched a lot of them during last season and they’ve got some talented individuals and they’ve started the season off really well. They’ve got a lot of pace down the wings with (Kyle) Bennett and (David) Cotterill, who also have good deliveries from set-pieces and we’ll make sure our players are aware of that.
“We’ll go out there expecting a tough afternoon as they’re very well organised playing with a very rigid 4-4-2 formation and so they will be hard to break down. I think the game will be a lot like last week and the first goal will be very important.
“The table at the moment is very tight. We’re lying in fifth place yet we’re only two points off top spot whereas in previous years, if you were two points behind first place then you’d expect to be in second so that’s just how close the League is this year.”
Manager Robinson has no fresh injury worries ahead of the trip to South Yorkshire and could be in line to name an unchanged side.
Gary MacKenzie has begun to step-up his rehabilitation from a hip injury but isn’t expected to be back until the New Year while striker Patrick Bamford continues to be assessed by parent-club Chelsea.
In Bamford’s absence, Ryan Lowe is set to keep his place up front for the Dons as he goes in search of his fourth goal in as many League games, although fellow front-men Alan Smith, Ibra Sekajja and Charlie MacDonald will also be pushing for starts, with the latter netting in Wednesday night’s Berks and Bucks Cup quarter-final.
Doncaster should have winger Bennett available despite the former Wolves trainee undergoing a series of injections to help with a troublesome knee problem.
Rovers will also be hoping to welcome back midfield duo David Syers and Martin Woods after both players failed late fitness tests ahead of last Saturday’s defeat to Coventry City.
Centre-half Jamie McCombe, though, is fully fit following a back injury and will be pushing for a start after only making the bench for the visit of the Sky Blues.