The key talking points from Robbie Neilson’s pre-match press conference ahead of the Sky Bet League One clash with Charlton Athletic on Boxing Day...
Robbie Neilson revealed his MK Dons players will be in on Christmas Day to prepare for their clash with Charlton, which is a big change from previous years – former boss Karl Robinson gave the team schedules to complete at home in each of six years at the Club.
The players will be in early to take part in their usual pre-game session before heading home in the afternoon to enjoy the festivities with family.
“We’ll train early on Christmas Day which means they can then get away and do what they need to do in the afternoon.
“They need to prepare properly for the next game, which is the following day. As a football player it’s important you are professional and realise that the most important thing is getting three points.”
Walsh back, Baldock out
There’s good news on the injury front, with Joe Walsh expected to return after a spell on the sidelines with an ankle injury.
Fellow defender George Baldock, however, will miss Monday’s match due to a hamstring injury but the positive is that the right-back is due back earlier than first thought.
“Baldock is still struggling so I don’t think we’ll have him for the next two games but possibly we’ll have him back after that.
“It’s just a slight (hamstring) tweak which isn’t too bad – it could have been a lot worse. We’re disappointed to lose him but pleased it’s not too extensive.”
Confident but not complacent
The Dons ended a run of 14 games without a home league win with their 1-0 victory over AFC Wimbledon a fortnight ago but boss Neilson insists the team aren’t getting carried away, knowing that there is still work to be done before they can expect consistent results at home.
“I think getting the monkey off our back in the home win a couple of weeks ago has made a big difference confidence-wise but we’ve still got a long way to go.
“It was one win in (14) games so we’ve still got a lot of work to do to make sure we start continuously getting three points here.”
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Neilson also confirmed that he’ll be looking to make decisions on the three loan players currently at the Club – Ryan Colclough, George C Williams and Jack Hendry – in the coming days.
“It’s something I need to look at. We’re still assessing the squad but I’ve got an idea of what I want to do.”
Not only are incomings expected at Stadium MK this January but also outgoings.
Potential for outgoings, decisions to be made on loanees
“If we can the main three in early then it gives us a bit of time to look to see where else we can strengthen.”
“We’ve got three key areas that we want to strengthen and we want to get those deals done as quickly as we can, so that we can focus on the rest of the squad. We’ve got a good idea about what we’re looking for – the number one targets and the number two targets.
With just over a week until the opening of the January transfer window, Neilson was asked a number of questions regarding recruitment by the media and the 36-year-old revealed he’s looking to add players in three key areas.
A look to January, three areas to improve
“I want to try and win every game and I’ve set a target for the players to do the same. We don’t want to go anywhere willing to settle for a draw.”
“Obviously we’d want nine points (from the next three) but we won’t look too far ahead. We’ll take care of the Charlton game and try to get three points in that before we look to the next game.
“I want to win every game” was the message from Neilson when we was asked what points target he had in mind for the team over the next three games, although the Scotsman did say that he and his team will be taking things one match at a time.
Robbie targeting nine points
“We know that, defensively, it’s going to be a real tough game.”
“They’ve got real threat up front. (Josh) Magennis is strong and powerful while (Nicky) Ajose is quick. (Jordan) Botaka is very unpredictable as well.
The Scotsman, though, is also aware of the Addicks’ other threats in the final third.
Neilson has pin-pointed Ademola Lookman as Charlton’s key player, stating that the 19-year-old attacker has ‘real quality’.
Lookman the danger man
“It’s going to be a tough game. Although we won that FA Cup game, it went to extra-time which shows how tight the two teams are.”
Neilson, whose side eventually able to come out on top in extra-time, is expecting another closely-fought contest at Stadium MK.
In the first 180 minutes of their Emirates FA Cup ties, there was nothing to separate the Dons and Charlton.