Dons boss cool over PNE clash

Midfielder Daniel Powell has scored seven goals this season for promotion-chasing MK Dons
Midfielder Daniel Powell has scored seven goals this season for promotion-chasing MK Dons
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MK Dons manager Karl Robinson claims there is no extra significance about his side’s meeting with Preston North End.

The clash at stadium:mk is a third-versus-second battle but with the calendar having only recently flipped over to March, Robinson says he is concentrating on the bigger picture.

“I don’t know what all the hype is about,” said the 34-year-old.

“There are still plenty of games to go. After this, I think we only play one team in the top 10.

“I don’t feel any different going into any game at the moment.

“Every game I go into, I put pressure on myself to perform, and Saturday won’t be any different. “

MK Dons have lost their last two games, beaten 2-1 at Coventry last Saturday before losing by the same scoreline to Chesterfield on Tuesday.

That slip allowed Preston to hop above them in midweek, Jermaine Beckford’s late equaliser against Doncaster hitting the net about the same time Chesterfield scored their winner.

Robinson said: “We were beaten and we are not having the best of times at the moment.

“But if we win on Saturday we go second, two points clear of Preston and the race is back on.

“There’s the challenge for the players – go and win on Saturday.

“It’s three teams competing for one place now and we’re in that three – usually we’ve been one of three teams chasing down a play-off place.

“The bigger picture is much more positive than the smaller-minded one right now.

“This unbelievable season can’t just fizzle out.

“There’s a lot of football still to play and we need to make sure we knuckle down and do the right things between now and the end of the season.

“I know my players will try to do that, to the best of their ability, and I’ll back them to do so 100%.

“We’ve been in all week working hard with gritted teeth because that’s what we have to do – we just have to stick together and get through this.”

Robinson is without skipper Dean Lewington for Preston’s visit after his sending off in the Chesterfield game for two yellow cards.

Talented midfielder Dele Alli is sidelined with an injury.

The 18-year-old, scorer of 14 goals this season, was sold to Tottenham for £5m on transfer deadline day and immediately loaned back to MK.

But he has missed the last three games and faces more time on the sidelines.

Robinson’s squad still carries a goal threat, even without Alli and Benik Afobe, who was on loan from Arsenal for the first half of the season.

Will Grigg has 12 goals this term, Daniel Powell seven and Ben Reeves six.

Devante Cole, son of Andy Cole, recently arrived on loan from Manchester City and has netted three.

One of Carl Baker’s six goals came against North End in the 1-1 draw at Deepdale in December.

PNE manager Simon Grayson thinks it will be a keenly-fought 
contest.

He said: “I think it is the best group of players that Karl has had since he has been there.

“They have had a few average results but we are certainly aware of what they can do.

“They have a major goal threat in the team as they have proved this season.

“The additions they have made this season show their intent.

“Joe Walsh came in from Crawley this week. He is a good defender.

“They have Lewis Baker from Chelsea who was at Sheffield Wednesday earlier this season.

“At the moment they are without one or two players but we have all been like that at some stage this season.

“It should be a decent game and we go there in good spirits.”