The month started with the news of the comings and going's being digested.
I'll start with the going's Anthony McNamee left the club ,official line was the club had reached an agreement to cancel the contract of Anthony by mutual consent which meant Robbo didn't rate him as I mentioned in the last blog he was a Mitchell recommendation ! I used to talk to Anthony quite a bit and quite liked him but he just didn't seem to be given a chance I couldn't see anything in training that he was doing wrong so can only assume it was something else.The winger joined the Dons at the eleventh hour in the August transfer window as a free agent following his departure from Norwich City and has now gone to Wycombe lets hope he doesn't come back to haunt us.
Also in were Paul Slane from Celtic and James Tavernier. Paul is naturally a right winger but can also play at right wing back a product of the Motherwell academy and thats about as much I know. The other signing James Tavernier who like Alan Smith joins us from Newcastle on loan.The Magpies had allowed Tavenier to play for Carlisle United where he made 17 appearances including the Cumbrian's defeat to the Dons last season James was also at Hillsborough with our last opponents Sheffield Wednesday and from the games he has played looks pretty good.
The first game of the month was against Huddersfield and I suppose if Im honest like the Wednesday game I was not very confident but we battled through the first half and despite the terriers onslaught managed to just concede the one goal at the stroke of half time. The second half the terriers completely cloned the whole team and came out a totally different team while the Dons seemed to have had a rocket up the bottom and the old adage a game of two halves was never more so with Huddersfield only coming to life the last few minutes after Gleeson's free kick had brought the sides level so a welcome point was earned and Huddersfield dropped out of the Auto spots we stayed at fifth. The teams lined up Huddersfield Town: Bennett, Hunt, Naysmith(booked), McCombe, Morrison, Arfield, Miller(booked replaced by Robinson, 76), Gobern, Cadamarteri, Higginbotham, Rhodes subs not used: Smithies, Woods, Novak, Lee
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Tavernier, MacKenzie, Williams, Potter, Gleeson, Chadwick (Powell, 86), Smith (booked replaced by Ibehre, 65), Bowditch (O’Shea 76), MacDonald subs not used: Flanagan, McLoughlin
Attendance was 15,898 with 302 Dons.
The game against Bury was always going to be a doubt with the Arctic like conditions across the country and a pitch inspection took place at Stadium:mk at 10.30am on the Friday before the game by Buckinghamshire based referee John Scott the minus temperatures throughout the week and a further snow fall Wednesday night cast more doubt over the game.
After the referee's inspection the pitch was deemed unplayable and with the continued freezing temperatures forecast over the next 24 hours the decision was taken by Mr Scott to cancel the fixture giving plenty of notice for both sets of players and supporters which meant another Tuesday night game but it was in February and not in March.
This meant we had not played a League home match on a traditional Saturday since the 17th of December against Preston and then that was an evening kick off, you have to go back to Saturday 26th of November against Wycombefor a normal Saturday 3pm kick off which made me think how will this effect the early bird season ticket sales ! with people forced into doing other things on a Saturday would some think I might not bother next season and just get ticket on the day ?
With the corner prices rising by twenty percent and fans reluctant to move into a new seat in an area where the top rows are already gone I could forsee a slow take up of ST's early on as people waited until ST holders deadline day had past and they would know which seats where available which of course would mean they wouldnt qualify for early bird price.
On the other hand East Premium prices are down and I can see a few switching to there (just in front of the cameras ! )but I think after the attempt to close down the corner last season( as it looked bare behind the goal) this is an attempt to get people to move and to fill up area's some would say are covered by camera's and the club would say need more atmosphere... you decide.
The ST forms were available to download but as of 17th almost a week later I still hadn't got mine through the post but I consoled myself with fact I still had till March to take advantage of early bird price but wondered why there was such a delay between getting the offer out on the Internet and sending forms out to existing ST holders who maybe didn't have the Internet or a printer but my worries were unfounded as my ST renewal pack came next day.
The postponement of the Carlisle game meant we have a very busy March with eight games to be played and only one Tuesday off on the 13th and with our small squad any injuries or suspensions could be very costly with little or no time to for players to get fit if injured and no break just to recover from the normal match day fatigue.
The next game was the perhaps the toughest of the season against league leaders and runaway leaders Charlton. Chris Powell virtually changed the whole team close season and his decision has proven a good one with Charlton now seeming to have that final season edge they previously lacked. And it is also good to see another young manager given a chance rather that the same old achieved very little or nothing type managers that have a permanent spot on the manager merry go round whatever they do or don't do.
The first half saw a good battle and two sides pretty evenly matched with the Dons probably shading it, then a mad five minutes at the end of the half saw MacKenzie headbutt Yann Kermorgant( he said in retaliation) in an off the ball incident and Smith then pulled down Jackson a minute later. Johnnie Jackson dispatched both penalties and Dons went into the second half with ten men and two goals down. With Charlton's home record only the most optimistic could see anything other than a heavy defeat but the Dons came out with a determined spirit and again shaded the half with Bowditch managing to latch on to O'Shea's ball and fire home to get a goal back at the Valley with ten men some achievement it has to be said. Karl said after the match "It was a performance of men, good footballers, people who care for the Club and real grit. I don't think you can ask for much more. I thought we created a number of chances with 11 men and with 10, and it just shows you we are a really good team in this League".
A thought most echoed but the fact remained we had no points and still hadn't had a win since January 2nd hardly Automatic promotion form. Dons lined up 4-2-3-1 Martin, Tavernier, MacKenzie, Williams, Lewington (c), Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch, Smith (O'Shea 83), Chadwick (Powell 76); MacDonald (Kouo-Doumbe 45).Subs not used: McLoughlin, Ibehre. Booked: MacKenzie and then Sent-off for straight red MacKenzie 42 Goal by Bowditch 87 Referee was Keith Stroud and Attendance was 15,569 with 347 Dons.
The table after the game saw us still in 5th spot but just one point clear of Stevenage and three ahead of Carlisle. But perhaps more telling was the gap opening above us with Huddersfield six points clear Wednesay eight and United ten Charlton are on an uncatchable eighteen points ahead of us and realistically the Auto spot's are now gone.
Our next game was against Oldham and a return to Saturday afternoon football for Stadium:mk with MacKenzie banned for four games another enforced shuffle about was needed at the back there was the usaul murmurs of players being a doubt like Smith and Jabo and the usual concern over MacDonald but I tend to ignore that and wait for the team sheet.
The game kicked off and for most of the first half I thought it was pretty even and Oldham did not look a bad side Powell managed to get the ball in the net only for the referee to disallow it and pull play back for a penalty none of us saw, Bowditch dispatched the spot kick and we went into the break a goal to the good.
The second half saw a masterclass performance from the Dons with pretty much every pass going where it should and every player having a blinder, despite the lino east side getting a few offside calls wrong we totaly outplayed Oldham with Powell getting two more to make up for the disallowed one, Doumbe getting the goal of the game and Gleeson chipped in with one as well and I thought of the words Karl had said after the Charlton game "It was a performance of men, good footballers, people who care for the Club and real grit " but this time we won the game and with Bury next we could start to put a run together with Wednesday again having a wobble. Dons lined up (4-2-3-1) Martin, Tavernier, Doumbe, Williams, Lewington (c) (Chicksen 70) Gleeson, Potter, Powell, Chadwick (MacDonald 63), Bowditch (O'Shea 63) Ibehre.Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan.Goals: Bowditch (pen) 9, Powell 47, 65, Doumbe 69, Gleeson 78, Gate was 7,817 which was just up on same fixture last season but only by a few, Oldham brought 271 and looked very lonely and quiet.
The next game was against Bury and they brought even less than Oldham and were even quieter even at one up I couldnt hear a sound.
The game was one of those games we dominated for the most part, we conceeded against the run of play after a pass from Potter went astray and gifted Schumacher the chance to play Amoo into a one on one with Martin and the former player curse struck again. It was one way traffic from then but we only managed to get two goals despite the numerous chances we had and one of those was a Penalty. Gleeson again showed his indisipline and nearly got himself sent off but instead picked up a yellow which see's him banned for the Bournemouth match Robbo subbed him before he got sent off I thought, Coke for Bury did get sent off on forty five minutes yet we still struggled to make it really count. All in all a frustrating game to watch as a Dons fan but three points as they say is three points.
Dons lined up 4-2-3-1 Martin, Tavernier, Kouo-Doumbe, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson (Ibehre 45); Powell (O'Shea 74), Smith, Bowditch (Chadwick 88); MacDonald.Subs not used: McLoughlin, Chicksen.Booked: Gleeson Goals both came from Bowditch 20, 45 (pen)attendance was a disappointing 6,405 and another club promotion the Ladies day suffered from the game being on a Tuesday Bury brought 206 very quiet fans .
On Wednesday the players had a day off and it was back as usual on Thursday but only Powell of the starting eleven trained which is unusual and something I cant remember seeing before with a game on Saturday, also travelling Friday afternoon Robbo usually like to see who came through the game and get a look at fitness levels before selecting those to travel on Friday. Spoke to John and he said Karl was off power walking with couple of players but didn't speak much as the players were getting ready to go back to Stadium for lunch.
On Friday the players left for Bournemouth at lunch time I spoke to George before they left and he said they hadn't trained and were training down at Bournemouth Robbo later said they trained on the beach.
The lack of training this week did not seem to effect the players and we collected the three points at five o'clock after a scrappy game with Doumbe getting the only goal proving yet again the goals come from the whole team..who needs a twenty goal a season striker anyway!!
And what a difference it made to the table with the gap below us now opening up and the gap above us looking reachable again with Wednsday beating their neighbours United we were now joint fourth with Huddersfield and just two points behind Wednesday who we have a game in hand on. We are just four points behind second place United but I think most agree Charlton are going to hang on to top spot.
On the Monday after the Cherries game Robbo and the lads went to play golf ahead of his appearance on the BBC later that evening John and Alex took the training only Jabo was there out of the first team but we finally saw the arrival of Paul Slane from Celtic. I spoke to him when he'd finished training and welcomed him to the Dons I asked him if he'd settled in okay to his flat and he said it was nice but he couldn't remember the address as he only moved in the day before.
Paul trained the whole session and didnt seem to have any problems so hopefully the injury he had before moving here is behind him now. Some of the players then met up in the afternoon for some bowling.
On the Tuesday we had a behind closed game against Wycombe, of the first teamers I saw Chadwick and MacKenzie also playing were Chicksen Baldock and Collins and also Slane but none of the usual first team ,we had two trialists that Id seen before and possibly one other who played as number fifteeen but looked to old to be academy.
Wycombe brought mainly squad players and no academy players I could see but not knowing the Wycombe squad that well I couldn't be sure.
We lost the game one nil and to be honest we were second best and didnt look like scoring, the number ten trialist was very lively and looked from a distance like Charlie Mac but seemed to play everywhere and was tracking back too much for my liking and not a goal predator probably trying too hard.
Our younger lads from the academy looked out muscled apart from one lad who I probably should know but cant put a name too it will come when the OS put the match report up there were substitutions second half and more second year academy players the trialist who played number eleven went off only to be brought back on later after an injury, he wasn't that good anyway but we seemed to be short of players by then, all in all I left disappointed but these games are for looking at future talent as much as getting players fit so I probably shouldn't be critical but ..
Its the long haul up to Hartlepool Saturday and the start of the busy month of March this will be the most important month of the season so far and I hope we can go on a good run and who knows maybe Auto will look even more likely come the end of it.