It’s no secret that MK Dons are in a bit of a rut. They have won just one of their last five games, easily the worst form in the top seven of League Two. Of the four losses in this period, three of them have been away from home, while the solitary home loss was a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Crewe Alexandra. ‘Surprise’ is used because the Dons’ home form has been impressive this season, and this was just their second defeat at Stadium MK this season. Therefore, if the Dons are to get their season back on track, they must make the most of their home form.
Home Form Will Be Key to the Remainder of MK Dons’ Season
Even though Paul Tisdale’s side were considered one of the best in the league going into the season, it was always highly unlikely, as much as it was never even considered, that they would go an entire home campaign unbeaten. You can have all the best players in the league and play the nicest football around but there will always be one team that finds a way past you.
That finally happened to MK Dons, although it did take until 22nd December for it to happen in a 1-0 loss to Colchester United.
It’s also good to note that both losses at Stadium MK have been by a singular goal. This suggests that they are just off days where the visitors have bagged an early goal and sat back for the rest of the game, rather than the hosts being totally outplayed.
The fact remains that, for the majority of the season, MK Dons have been excellent at home, winning ten of their 15 games on home soil, putting them third in the table in terms of just home games and with the best home defence in the league, conceding just seven times.
Away Form is the Hinderance
The main factor of MK Dons’ slump from near-certain promotion candidates to play-off obscurity is their form away from Stadium MK. Last weekend saw them suffer an embarrassing 3-1 loss at Exeter City on Paul Tisdale’s return to the club where he spent 12 years, while back in January they conceded three goals in the final 12 minutes to lose 4-3 to Bury having been 3-1 up.
Six of the club’s eight losses this season have come on their travels and of the teams in the promotion and play-off positions that they have visited, their best result remains a 1-1 draw with Mansfield Town back in October. They go to Carlisle United, who are a place above the Dons, on Saturday 16th February while the remaining team, Forest Green Rovers, will be played on Saturday 30th March.
Away games are a struggle and there is certainly no expectation on a team to go unbeaten away from home across an entire season, but the results that MK Dons are picking up on the road, especially in the last month or two, are hardly encouraging going into such an important part of the season. With Tisdale clearly struggling to put his finger on what’s going wrong, the reliance on their home form will become greater than ever.
A Difficult Month Ahead
February doesn’t get any easier for the Dons, with two of their remaining four games being long trips. Firstly, they go to Newport County for the rearranged game of their fixture that was postponed in December, with it succumbing to heavy rain 20 minutes before kick-off. This is made all the more difficult by Newport’s recent FA Cup scalps, beating Leicester City and Middlesbrough to set up a dream match against Manchester City. The confidence that the Exiles will have gained from those games will no doubt be a difficult thing for MK Dons to overcome.
The bigger away tie, though, is the mammoth journey to Carlisle United. The Dons have a poor record at Brunton Park, winning only one of their six games there, a 3-1 victory in September 2011. A lone draw is followed by four losses at the ground, including a 5-0 thumping in February 2010.
The club, therefore, must make the most of their two home games which, if they win both and big up at least one respectable result on their travels, could leave the table looking far more positive at the end of the month.
They start with Swindon Town this coming Saturday, a club with which they have had some excellent battles over the years, mostly in League One. Swindon are one of the better travellers in the league, sitting sixth in the away form table but the Dons still look resilient, if not convincing, at home and should have enough confidence that they can pick up the win in that one.
The Dons will then play Newport again at the end of the month, this time in the home fixture. Their result at Rodney Parade will no doubt have an effect on the outcome of this one, so picking up a result in South Wales must be a massive priority. Otherwise, the final run-in towards the end of the season becomes all the more difficult.