The key talking points from Robbie Neilson’s press conference on Monday morning...
The men from MK1 have won as many games in the nine-and-a-bit weeks since Neilson’s appointment as they had done in the three months previous to that. They’ve also drastically turned around their form at home - winning four times since the start of December, having triumphed just once before that.
Neilson is happy with the way the Dons are progressing.
“We’re only two months in but the main thing is that we’re progressing in the right direction,” he told the media.
“It takes time but the improvement is coming. The last five games have been good – we’re unbeaten, we’ve won three and drawn two against good teams in tough venues.
“We have to continue that now. Hopefully we can build and try to get up the league as high as we can. We have to keep winning football matches.”
Robbie not getting carried away
Despite the recent good form, Neilson is keeping his feet firmly on the ground and wants his side to continue building momentum by trying to win each game as it comes.
“What’s done is done and our focus is on Tuesday and trying to continue moving forward and improving. We are where we are for a reason but we want to try and get as high as we can – the only way to do that is by sticking together and winning games.
“Confidence plays a big part. You want the players going into the game feeling they are going to win. Saturday is a good example with the nature in which we got back into it, although we didn’t win the game. That gives you a little bit of momentum as well.”
Boss calls for continued support
Saturday’s clash with Bolton Wanderers took place in front of a Club-record league crowd of 21,545.
While the attendance is set to be lower for Tuesday night’s meeting with Oldham Athletic, Neilson does hope to see some supporters returning for a second time.
“The support was great on Saturday. Hopefully more people can turn up again on Tuesday and give us that support because it definitely helps the team.”
New boys providing a lift
It’s been just under a week since the close of the January transfer window and the Dons’ four new signings are well on their way to settling in at Stadium MK.
Neilson was asked in his press conference about the lift the new recruits have brought to the dressing room and the Dons boss pointed to Saturday’s game and the boost striker Maecky Ngombo gave the side after coming on as a substitute.
“It’s really important that you bring in players who, when they walk into the dressing room, the players can see the positive direction the club’s trying to go in.
“We took our time getting the right players in. Players with quality and four players who can all bring something different to the team.
“You could see it (the lift they’ve given) on Saturday when Maecky came on – his pace, power and energy gave everyone a lift.”
“They got a great result on Saturday. They had a man sent off just after half-time but they really sat in, fought and got a 94th-minute winner – that kind of thing can turn a season for teams and they’ll certainly be coming to Stadium MK on a high.
“You can’t be complacent at all in this league. If you don’t turn up and give 100 percent then you’ll get turned over because every team as one or two players who have a game-changing moment in them.
Neilson, though, is expecting a tough evening against the Latics.
The Dons sit six places above Tuesday’s opponents in the Sky Bet League One table and enjoyed a 2-0 success over them in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
Not taking Oldham lightly
“He’s here to offer that experience and strength because his character is fantastic. He’s a leader and the players look up to him so important when he’s not playing, he’s still leading us off the field.”
“I spoke to him after the injury about wanting him to still be about the place. He was at the Peterborough game on crutches and he was here on Saturday.
He may not be able to contribute on the pitch but captain Lewington is still playing a key role in the dressing room, according to Neilson.
Dean playing an important role from the sidelines
“I expect him to be fully fit now and ready to go. He’s an experienced player who knows his body so I’ve got no issues with him.”
Dean Bowditch, meanwhile, has been described as ‘fully fit’ after returning to action at Stadium MK last weekend.
“Both are progressing really well. Ben’s doing a bit of running and Dean’s a day or two away from doing that. I expect Dean to be back training with us in a week to 10 days’ time – Reevesy probably the same time frame too.”
Dean Lewington and Ben Reeves continue to make progress in their rehabilitation from ankle and groin injuries respectively, with their manager expecting to have them back in training by the end of next week.
“We just need to be careful we don’t overplay him because he’s still coming back from that long period out. He’s done really well for us but as I said the other week, we expect him to come down a little bit before he gets truly into his stride.”
“Chuks has a little problem fitness-wise but he should e alright for (Tuesday) night.
When asked about his talented frontman, Neilson mentioned a fitness concern which will require monitoring ahead of Tuesday’s kick-off – although the manager is hopeful of having his number 25 available.
Aneke couldn’t maintain his stunning scoring form in Saturday’s draw with Bolton Wanderers and was replaced early in the second half by midfielder O’Keefe.
Dons to keep an eye on Chuks
“Having those three in there, who have experience and understand the game certainly gives us options.”
“I think in certain games they could,” he answered. “It’s important to be able to play three central midfielders at times.
With Neilson often using a formation which accommodates only two central midfielders, the Scotsman was asked as to whether all three of his middle-men – Darren Potter, Ed Upson and Deadline Day signing Stuart O’Keefe – could feature in the line-up together.
Room for Dons’ midfield trio