Liam Manning praised his side’s ‘hard-to-beat’ mentality after their 2-1 triumph away at Sunderland.
MK Dons maintained their excellent start to 2022 by securing three points at the Stadium of Light – their sixth win since the turn of the year and a result which keeps them third in the Sky Bet League One table.
“I’m really pleased for the group,” Manning said in his post-match press conference.
“When you look at the lads’ intensity, discipline, focus and competitive spirit, it epitomised the culture that we have at the Club. It showed up throughout the game.
“We attack as a team, we defend as a team and we don't carry anybody and I think the guys showed that.
“We often get a lot of talk around our style of play with the ball and we’ve gained a certain reputation at the Club for that but we also, alongside that, we have to be really difficult to beat.
“If you want to win matches or be in a position to get results, you have to be difficult to beat, you have to be compact and you have to have everybody buying into defending. The guys were excellent at that again today.”
Manning added: “I would be naïve to say I'm never going to look at (the table) and, certainly as we draw into the later stages of the season, we have to, but there's still so many points still to play for.
“For now, it’s about taking it game-by-game. The message to the guys is that all we can control is the week-to-week work, what we do how and we apply ourselves - that will be the challenge going into Tuesday.”
Mo Eisa and Connor Wickham scored the Dons’ decisive goals and the duo received praise from Manning afterwards, along with the two players who provided the assists – Josh McEachran and Troy Parrott.
“I felt we needed some legs to get across the pitch and to threaten the depth – a real honest performance as a 9. (Mo) did that.
“I’m delighted for Connor. He was annoyed at me for not picking him but it was about him making sure that he was ready to step in and I think he showed professionalism today to do that and deliver when required. I’m sure it was a special moment for him (to score).
“(Troy) showed some moments of real quality today to contribute to the goals. Troy wants to score goals, obviously, as any attacking player does but I think he's really matured in terms of the work he puts in out of possession and the honesty to track back and compete. If he he keeps doing that, then the goals will come, I've got no worries about that.
“We spoke to (Josh) after about what made him so angry today! I think he showed a different side to him and that’s credit to Josh.
“Whether you are 20/22 like some of the young lads or 28 like Josh, you can still progress, develop and get better. We know his quality with the ball but what he's really shown in recent weeks is that out of possession work - intensity, counter-pressing and getting up to the ball. He did a really good job at it today.”
Saturday also saw a return to action for David Kasumu, six weeks on from suffering a hamstring injury during the 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley.
“He came on and had a really positive impact for the team,” Manning said of his number eight. “A huge credit has to go to him because he really looked after himself when he was out injured.
“He is a terrific physical specimen but he’s really progressed in terms of his attention to detail. I think he's now starting to understand the importance of everything around being a footballer.
“We work really hard to make sure (injured players) keep learning, they stay around the group and we continue to challenge them. I think he's really bought into it and he’s trained well. He’s in a really good place.”
Liam Manning and MK Dons travel to The Valley on Tuesday night as they look to take extend their eight-game unbeaten run away from home.
Tickets, which are available to buy now both online and from the Box Office, are priced at £23 adults, £18 over-65s/under-21s, £14 students, £11 under-18s and £5 under-11s, if bought in advance of the match.
To book tickets CLICK HERE, visit the Box Office at Stadium MK or call 01908 622933. Tickets will be available to buy from the Club until 12pm on Tuesday, as well as on the night at The Valley.