The key talking points from Robbie Neilson's press conference ahead of MK Dons' Sky Bet League One clash with Oxford United...
Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Oldham Athletic wasn’t one for the neutrals but it’s a win that boss Robbie Neilson was more than happy to take.
“Everyone wants to play entertaining football and entertain the fans while winning games but there are games like (Tuesday).
“If you have a team who just wants to sit in then it’s hard to break them down and it can become a negative game.
“There will be more of them during the season. We’re doing well at home so teams will come here and sit in, so it will be up to us to break teams earlier than we did (on Tuesday).”
On to Oxford
The euphoria of Tuesday’s dramatic triumph may still be living on through the Dons supporters but Neilson and his side quickly moved on from the Stadium MK success.
“The message to them all, after the game, was good, well done on the three points but it’s on to Oxford (United) now.
“The game on Tuesday night is done and our focus is solely on Oxford and hopefully picking up three points.”
Managing Barnes and Aneke
Robbie Neilson opted to rotate his squad against Oldham, with Harvey Barnes and Chuks Aneke two who were rested. The Dons boss was asked about their absences and explained the decision.
“In Harvey’s case, he’s a young kid who’s not played in first team regularly so asking him to play Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday right through is going to be difficult. We thought it was best to take him out and give him a break, getting him ready for the games coming up.
“Chuks is coming back from that long-term injury but he’s more experienced and will get to that stage quicker, where he’s playing midweek games as well.”
Easier for young Dons to make an impact later in games
Loanee Barnes has made an excellent start to life at Stadium MK and while he’s featured from the off twice since arriving from Leicester City, his impact has been felt most in the closing-stages of matches.
After scoring late on against Northampton Town, Barnes grabbed the opening goal in the 4-0 win over Peterborough United. Then followed an excellent second-half display in the 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers - one which saw him named Man of the Match - before the midfielder again made an impact off the bench in the 1-0 win over Oldham Athletic.
Neilson explained the reasoning for that: “There’s a difference between how a game starts and how a game finishes. Teams are very organised at the start so it can be difficult for younger players to get a foothold in the game.
“Sometimes it’s easier for them to come on in the final half an hour when it’s more open.”
“It’s really important we keep our key players. It’s as important, if not more important than bringing new players in. If we’ve got quality here then it’s important we try and keep it.
Neilson revealed to the media that talks have already begun with those Dons who have just over four months remaining on their deals.
As soon as the January transfer deadline passes, focus turns to the summer window and the players currently at Stadium MK whose contracts expire at the end of June.
Discussions have started with out-of-contract Dons
“It’s important we try to win every game. If we can continue to keep winning games, regardless of who it’s against, we’ll climb the table. If we pick up points regularly then we’ll be fine.”
The Dons have the opportunity to climb above Saturday’s opponents Oxford with a win this weekend but that does not add any more importance to the match in the view of Neilson.
Robbie’s desire to win not affected by league positions
“They’re a tough team with quality all over the pitch. They have boys who can cause you real problems.”
“They’re on good form. They had a really good result in their derby on Sunday. They worked really hard in the second half and dominated Swindon after a difficult first half.
Saturday’s opponents - like the Dons - are one of Sky Bet League One’s most in-form sides since the turn of the year and having watched them pick up a 2-1 victory in their derby with Swindon Town last Sunday, Neilson is preparing the side for a difficult test.
Neilson expecting tough afternoon against in-form Oxford