Karl Robinson hopes his side will be boosted by the return of Patrick Bamford and Alan Smith this Saturday, as they prepare to take on Sheffield United.
Bamford, on loan from European Champions Chelsea until the end of the season, was re-united with his Dons team-mates this week after fully recovering from an injury sustained against Hartlepool United in December and the former Nottingham Forest striker is set to be included in the matchday squad for the mouth-watering clash this weekend.
Also making the journey to Yorkshire this weekend is Leeds-born Smith, who served the final game of a four-match suspension on Tuesday night. The 32-year-old was shown a straight red card in the dying moments of the FA Cup with Budweiser defeat to Barnsley last month but, upon completing his punishment, the ex-Manchester United and England forward is once again available for selection, something which delights his boss Robinson.
Speaking ahead of the game, the Liverpudlian manager said: “Alan Smith always does well against in these kind of games and he’s always had a big impact on them as well. Maybe with Luke Chadwick out injured it offers him a way back into the team but I’ll make that decision closer to kick-off.
“If he does play then of course he’s going to get some stick but he has that wherever he goes. He’s a good lad, though and the reputation that he has is completely underserved. He’ll look forward to the challenge, if he plays, as he’s a big game player and having back in the team along with Patrick Bamford will be a boost.
“Patrick is now back training with us and he’ll travel to Sheffield. He’s fully fit and he’s very excited so he’ll definitely bolster the group. I’m really looking forward to having him back in the team because he’s a top talent.”
There is bad news for Robinson, though, in the form of talisman Luke Chadwick who limped off during the mid-week win over Doncaster Rovers and the youngest manager in the Football League confirmed that the injury sustained is worse than first feared.
“It’s a hip flexor injury which is a big disappointment for us. I don’t want to put a time scale on it because it’s still very early on but I do believe the medical department will do the best they can to get Luke Chadwick back as soon as possible.
“I feel I need to take a bit of responsibility for it as well, as, because we haven’t had enough players fit, he’s had to play in games he probably shouldn’t have played in. Ironically, he was down not to play this Saturday anyway because he’s close to fatigue. It’s obviously a big disappointing for us all but it’s the story of our season and we’ll just have to get on with it.
“Dean (Bowditch) is another one who we have to be careful with. I brought him off on Tuesday at a time when he was looking tired and we had to be conscious of that. Dean’s been injured for a long time and we’ve got to be very careful when bringing him back and it’s a similar situation with Stephen - we need to make sure we don’t get carried away with them both.
“Semy is back, though, and he’ll be up for selection once again so we’ve not got a bad side going there at all.”
Without Chadwick, then, the Dons will travel to Bramall Lane looking to do the double over the promotion favourites while also extending their unbeaten run to six. The victory in mid-week was Robinson’s first since New Year’s Day, but did see his side climb to within ten points of the play-offs with 12 games still to go.
Robinson, though, knows that his side will have to be at their very best if they are to take three points off a Sheffield United side, managed by former Dons manager Danny Wilson, who sit just one point behind top spot in League 1.
“Bramall Lane is the type of ground you love going too, it’s steeped in history and it’s a special place to go and play football. The fans there will be behind their team and they’ll make it difficult for us, so we’ve got to make sure we’re on our ‘A’ game if we want to be able to compete with them, given the quality in their side.
“(Kevin) McDonald and (Michael) Doyle in midfield are too very good players. They’ve also got the likes of (Barry) Robson, (Dave) Kitson and (Jamie) Murphy while (Harry) Maguire and (George) Long are two talented young footballers. (Danny) Higginbotham and (Neil) Collins are also there so they’ve got a tremendous blend of both youth and experience, but that’s what being a big club allows you to do.
“Danny Wilson is a very nice person and he’s done a very good job there. Some people may argue that he’s failed but he’s assembled one of the strongest squads in the League. The expectation at that football club is massive and I think him and his team have coped with that really well.
“They were a bit up and down earlier on the year but in recent weeks they seemed to have stabilised themselves in second position and so it’ll be nice if we can go there and take something off them. We tend to respond to big games though. We’ve beaten both Tranmere Rovers and Doncaster Rovers while they’re top of the League and we beat Sheffield United earlier on the year.”