Karl Robinson faces a dilemma this evening as his side face AFC Bournemouth with only one centre-back available.
The Dons’ strength in depth was enviable as the season approached so youngster Tom Flanagan was sent to Gillingham on loan to further enhance his development, but as fortunes would have it injuries to Mathias Kouo-Doumbe and Shaun Williams left cover threadbare.
Then, in the first League game of the season, Antony Kay’s dream debut turned into a nightmare when the defender was shown a red card at the final whistle. Despite the early-season headache, Robinson is confident he has the squad to adapt to different circumstances and switch formations if need.
The one thing Robinson will take great confidence from though, is the form of the one centre-back available for selection this evening – Gary MacKenzie.
The Scotsman was excellent in the Capital One Cup against Cheltenham Town and last Saturday against Oldham Athletic, and while his performances may have gone under the radar for many, one person who has taken note is Dons boss Robinson.
MacKenzie’s disciplinary issues last season were well documented and Robinson is keen to recognise the former Rangers’ man’s change in attitude against Oldham.
Speaking to MK Dons Player, Robinson said: “I know Gary has his critics, he has to come up against players who are trying to get him sent off and in the past it has worked, he has retaliated.
“I phoned him on Sunday to have a chat with him and tell him I thought he showed tremendous maturity, he didn’t respond in the wrong way, he carried on and played his normal game. I think he is a tremendous player with great ability to go and play at a higher level.
“I will back him against anybody; I think he is one of the best centre-halves outside the top flight. I think it’s important people recognise performances like Saturday and applaud him for it rather than pulling him down when he has a bad day.”
The Oldham game though, did not pass by without a blemish and Robinson admits that three years on he is still learning how to deal with controversial incidents.
He added: “We can learn valuable lessons – we don’t condone what Antony Kay did, he was very apologetic to us all because he knows he was in the wrong. Me personally, maybe I was out of order for having ago at Robbie Simpson after the game, I should have let it lie so I need to learn that in the heat of the battle I need to step back and let it calm down – whether it was right or wrong on the pitch.”