Manager Karl Robinson praised the impact of striker Alan Smith in his side’s 2-2 draw with Portsmouth at stadiummk on Saturday afternoon.
The Leeds-born forward was brought on as part of a tactical shake-up with Jon Otsemobor making way, allowing the Dons to go with three at the back and two up front. The change came in the 33rd minute with the Dons two down to a Pompey side that looked on course to make it three wins on the spin.
However, thanks to an own goal from Adam Webster before half-time and a 72nd minute strike from Darren Potter, Robinson’s team earned themselves a point and stretched their unbeaten League run to six games.
And the Dons boss believes it was the introduction of the former Manchester United and Newcastle forward that turned the game in the home team’s favour.
Speaking after the game, Robinson said: “Bringing Smithy on changed the game, him as a person changed it by giving us that desire and fight. We had a decision to make after the second goal and I wasn’t sure whether or not it was too early to make a change but I had to just do it.
“Jon hadn’t done anything wrong but I didn’t want to take off any of the attacking players and he’s never played at centre-half before so it wasn’t whether or not he was playing badly, he was just the one I had to look at.
“In fact, he got us out of a hole at 2-0 when he made a goal-saving tackle but as much as I hate to make decisions like that it’s my job and at the end of the day we got it right.”
Just like they did against Coventry in midweek, the Dons started slowly and could have been a goal down within two minutes if not for Brian Howard’s penalty hitting the post. It didn’t matter too much for the visitors though, as they took the lead seconds later through ex-Don Izale McLeod before Gabor Gyepes headed home a second.
And Robinson admitted to feeling furious with his side’s first half display and explained why he stormed down the tunnel as soon as the whistle blew.
“We started horrifically. We spoke before the game about our defence not being so offensive because we knew they’d want to run in between us and that’s the disappointing thing - the penalty and the chances came from them doing that.
“I was shaking at half-time I was so emotional, I had to get away. I’m not ashamed to say it affects me because I care for this Football Club and I care for the players and I know they’re better than that.
“Mick had a go at them so all I said was to show me how much the badge and the team means to them.
“That’s all I ask for is for the players to play with their heart. We’re not always going to get it right tactically and today wasn’t one of our most fluent performances but when things aren’t going your way you need to look and your badge and the person next to you and it has got to mean something to you.”
The Dons did turn it around in the second half and could have arguably walked away with all three points if not for some last ditch defending and good goalkeeping.
And the 32-year-old manager also reserved a special mention for his midfield duo for their role in fight back.
“I thought Stephen Gleeson gave everything he physically could and Darren Potter’s also exhausted because the Club means an awful lot to him, like it does us all. We’re not going to go down without fighting this year and I don’t think any fan could turn around today and say the players didn’t give their all and that means an awful lot to me.”
The point sees Robinson’s team stay in fifth place ahead of their tough trip to Preston North End next Sunday and the Liverpudlian is eager to put things right, something he is fully committed to.
“It obviously worries us that we’re missing chances but we’ll put it right and we’ll work hard with what we’ve got. It’s going to be a long week and we’re going to work hard – something I’m dedicated to.
“But we’re six games unbeaten, granted three of them are draws but they were against big clubs who have ambitions this year. Portsmouth, like Coventry, struggled to get going but now they’re used to League 1, teams are going to find it very difficult to play against them.
“The first half display was unacceptable but in the second we showed hunger, desire and care towards the Football Club. It wasn’t the classiest performance today but we’ve got plenty more to give.”