Robbie Neilson praised a professional performance from his MK Dons side in Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy triumph at Stadium MK.
The men from MK1 beat Brighton & Hove Albion Under-21s side 2-0 to begin their group-stage campaign in a positive fashion and provide a response from Saturday’s disappointment at Blackburn Rovers.
“I was pleased,” Neilson said afterwards. “These games can be difficult at times because they cannot be as intense as league games but I felt we handled it professionally.
“It was a good performance all round. We moved the ball around well, we got two goals and a clean sheet. There were a lot of good aspects – we played some good football at times and we improved definitely from Saturday.
“We struggled offensively on Saturday but tonight we looked a lot sharper and created a few more chances, which was pleasing. We now need to carry it on into the Oxford game.”
Here’s what else Neilson had to say in his post-match interviews...
“We have to get into the winning mentality but we haven't done that this season. We used tonight as an opportunity to build some momentum going into our game on Saturday. We decided to go semi-strong and put a few of the first team out there to give them a bit more game time and thankfully it worked.
“We need to bring that confidence to our league play and hopefully tonight helped with that.”
Young Dons impressed
“I was really pleased with the young ones. I thought Nombe and Thomas-Asante did really well. They're two young guys in and around the first team so they have to use this opportunity to show what they can do. Hugo and Giorgio coming on did well too.
“We’ll continue to use these games to work on the team but also give these younger players game-time and a first-team experience. Young players bring enthusiasm, energy and bring forward running. The more experienced players bring balance and defensive aspects. We have to make sure they understand the other side of the game too so when we put them into the first team, they make the right decisions.”
Hugo’s debut delight
“I didn’t actually realise it was his debut! As he was about to come on, I asked him if it was his first game. I’m really pleased for him. He’s still got a long way to go and he still has to keep working hard but he’s definitely got potential.
“He’s been in and out of the first-team environment so we has to continue to bridge that gap and he’ll be one of the guys who will be involved in the reserve league regularly, which will give him a chance to force his way into the squad.”
Thankful for the support
“The fans gave us the support we needed. It can be difficult at this time of year because there are a lot of games to come to and a lot of travelling. For them to come out tonight and support us in the way they did – we really appreciate it."
A look ahead to Oxford
“It’s going to be a tough one on Saturday. Oxford got a really good result at Stevenage tonight so we know they’ll be coming here looking to get another win because they’ve made a good start to the season.”
Hopeful of injured players returning
“We were missing quite a few boys - Peter Pawlett and Callum Brittain were out tonight. If we can get that group back and a couple more players, it'll show the strength in depth we could have, which you really need it in this league.”
Transfer update ahead of Deadline Day
“We’re still working away. It’s a real juggling act at the moment but we’ve got our targets and we’ll try to get them here. We need to get players in so in the next 24 hours, we will have to make the decision as to whether to move onto different targets.
“I’m never keen to let it go to the last minute because I think those deals are always rushed but this year, it is more difficult because teams are keeping hold of their players a lot longer and there's less movement in the Championship so we've had to hold on to our cards a lot longer.
“We're still after two of our main targets in two positions we're looking for. We're looking at a loan and a (permanent) signing.”
Opinion on competition
“It's a tournament we should all be able to use to develop our young players. They've changed the rules a little bit this season so we have more of an opportunity to change our team and give younger players a chance. There are a lot of league games in the first few months of the season, so the group stage is always going to be a situation where you look at what you need, see where you can develop players and give them game time.
“If we progress further than the group stage then we will start to press harder in it. At the end of the day, it's a chance to win something. There aren't many things you can win at this level because it's unrealistic to think you're going to win the FA Cup or the Carabao Cup, but we've got this and the league.”
Robbie Neilson's men will be looking to make it two wins from two at Stadium MK when they entertain Oxford United this Saturday.
Tickets for the Sky Bet League One clash are priced from £22 adults, £17 over-65s/under-21s and £7 under-18s while under-12s go FREE*. Supporters can upgrade to East Centre and clubRed for a small premium.
To book tickets click here, visit the Box Office at Stadium MK or call 0333 200 5343.