mkdons.com takes a look at some of the storylines to follow heading into Saturday’s Sky Bet League One clash with Rochdale at Stadium MK...
It’s hard to fault the Dons for their displays against play-off hopefuls Bradford City and Millwall last week but after coming away from both games with just one point to their name, the men from MK1 will be hoping to put a victory on the board this weekend.
Neilson’s men came close to an impressive away win at Bradford last Tuesday evening, taking the lead twice and also having the best chance on goal in the second half when the game was finally poised at 2-2.
They also had a great opportunity on Saturday at The Den at 1-1 to come away with all three points but after failing to convert, they saw the Lions awarded a controversial penalty from which they secured victory.
The Dons will be hoping to put on another strong display in front of the home fans on Saturday but, perhaps more importantly, secure a positive result which would no doubt delight the Stadium MK supporters just as much.
Four of the Dons’ next six opponents – including Saturday’s visitors Rochdale – are within touching distance of them in Sky Bet League One table, which makes this stretch of fixtures an important one for Neilson and his side.
Dale, AFC Wimbledon, Charlton Athletic and Gillingham are all within six points of the men from MK1 in the table so positive results are vital if they hold aspirations of climbing back into the top half of the division.
While the Dons can’t pass Rochdale at the weekend, they could close the gap on the Greater Manchester club to three points.
A win would also see them move to within a point of their next opponents AFC Wimbledon, should they lose to Northampton Town – that would certainly add some extra spice to next week’s clash at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
Question marks at the back
After a difficult start to the season, the Dons’ defence has shored up since the turn of the year but, due to suspensions, they’ll be without two key players for their next two games.
Dean Lewington and George Baldock will miss Saturday’s clash with Rochdale and the trip to AFC Wimbledon after both players received two-match bans for collecting 10 yellow cards.
That leaves two holes in a five-man defence with only one obvious candidate to fill in – 19-year-old Ben Tilney, who impressed when deputising in Lewington’s absence at the start of the month.
Neilson, therefore, may be forced to revert back to a four-person backline but against a high-scoring side in Rochdale, where the emphasis will be on remaining tight in defence, it’s a switch the 36-year-old may want to avoid.