Liam Manning has called on his MK Dons side to be braver in situations like the one they faced on Saturday against Oxford United.
Manning’s men led Oxford at half-time of their Sky Bet League One clash at Stadium MK but two second-half goals from the visitors saw them walk away with all three points and the Dons suffer only their second defeat in six matches.
“I think we needed to be braver with the ball,” Manning said in his post-match press conference. “We have to step up against good teams like Oxford - step up, be brave and go and run the game.
“We expected them to press us second half and for them to be more on the front foot and aggressive. We knew we would have to work twice as hard to keep the ball and we didn't do that.
“We speak to the guys a lot about their thought process in possession because you can pick up negative momentum with what you do with the ball. For me, they have to be looking in behind, furthest forward, feet, square and then back in that order. What we did was square and back passes which invited pressure and it's not the first time we’ve done that.
“When we're playing well like we were in the first half, it's easy to look good but when you're up against it, who is going to step up and grab the game and show what they can do?
“It always comes back to the ball, for me. If we look after the ball and we're working hard to keep it, they cannot score. So , we have to control the game by keeping the football.”
Despite disappointed with the result and the manner in which they suffered defeat, there were still positives for Manning to take from Saturday’s game – not least the first-half performance, given his side were without seven players through injury and illness.
“I have to give credit to the group for how they responded to the last-minute changes,” Manning added.
“It speaks volumes to our culture that the guys can play they way they did in the first half.
It shows the depths we have that we can play against Oxford and dominate large periods of the first half when missing so many.
“We played some terrific stuff and had a lot of control of the game and we were pleased going in at half time. We deserved something by how we played in the first half. Oxford didn't have a great deal more chances than us so I think the guys deserved something.”
He continued: “It’s been a tough week. We'd like to have more points than what we got but we have learned a lot. We know we need to be better than we were in the second half.”
Here is what else Liam Manning had to say in his post-match press conference…
No blame for second goal…
“It's not the first and it won't be the last time that happens. We're asking Fish (Andy Fisher) to do that and, for me, he showed more bravery than anyone in the team with how much responsibility he took with the ball. When it goes wrong like that, it out-weighs the 15, 20 times we do it and it goes right. It's not about changing what we do, it's about making the right decisions. We have to empower the players to make the right decisions.”
Liam Manning and MK Dons will look to return winning ways on Saturday when they take on Burton Albion at the Pirelli Stadium.
Tickets are available to buy from the Box Office and online priced at £18 adults, £16 seniors, £13 17-22s and £5 under-17s in the standing terrace or £22 adults, £20 seniors, £20 17-22s and £12 under-17s in the seated area.
To book tickets CLICK HERE, visit the Box Office at Stadium MK or call 01908 622933. Tickets will be available from the Box Office and online until 4pm on Friday.