Tom Flanagan is looking to make the most of his opportunity when he deputises for the injured Antony Kay this weekend.
Flanagan, 21, has yet to feature in the League for the Dons this season due to the impressive performances of Kay and Shaun Williams at the heart of the defence and, in fact, the Northern Ireland Under-21 international hasn’t started a League match for the Club since May 2012, having spent most of last season out on loan.
However, with Kay now sidelined for up to 12 weeks with a hip injury, Dons boss Karl Robinson has trusted Flanagan with the responsibility of stepping in as a replacement and the young defender is keen to do exactly that and help the team build on their good start to the season.
Speaking to MK Dons Player ahead of the game, Flanagan said: “I am excited but I know in myself that I’m able to do it, to be honest. I played 30-odd games two seasons ago here and we ended up in the play-off places so I’m confident in my own ability to step into the team and do well.
“I wasn’t really involved at the beginning of the season but sometimes that’s how it happens. It’s unfortunate for Antony because he’s a really good professional and doesn’t deserve it. But that’s the harsh reality of being a footballer really and fortunately for me, I’ve gained from it.
“It’ll be really nice if I can start by keeping a clean sheet on Saturday. Centre forwards are marked on their goals, midfielders are marked on their pass percentages but as a centre-half you pride yourself on clean sheets.
“It’ll be something I will be looking to do to help the team, although a lot of the goals we’ve conceded this year have been fluky, like the one on Saturday. We do seem to concede a lot of our goals just before half-time, though, but so as a team we’ll look to improve on that.”
It’s ironic that Flanagan’s first League appearance this season should be against the team he played 15 times for in their League Two title winning campaign of 2012/13.
The 6ft 2in defender, who also spent time on loan with Barnet last year, is looking forward to seeing some old faces but would like nothing more than to three points from them.
“It’ll be really good to go back but it’ll be nice to beat them and not let them score” he added. “ I know all of the lads there and I enjoyed playing there so it’ll be good to see what sort of reaction I get and it’ll be nice to see a couple of them.
“(Martin Allen) will set his team up in a mindset where you turn up at every ground with a point, so don’t let it slip. He’ll be expecting 100 percent out of all of his players and with the way he goes about things I’m sure he’ll get it.
“I was there last year and they do play a bit of football in the final third, they just don’t take risks at the back. That’s the way he wants to play and it’s clearly worked as they run away with the League last year, so it will be a tough game.
“I feel like people take for granted going away from home, they don’t fully understand how hard it is. They look at it as it just being another football pitch but it is a lot harder than that because you have the opposition fans and the players know their pitch a lot better too.
“I will be looking and saying to the boys, let’s just make sure we keep a clean sheet because if we do that we walk away with a point. If we were to go the whole season getting a point at every away game I think we’d be right up there, especially with the way our home form is at the moment.”