PNE opponents running out of luck

MK Dons, who visit Preston this weekend, are facing a swift return to League One after a slide in form just at the wrong time.

The long-serving Dean Bowditch has scored four league goals for MK Dons this season
The long-serving Dean Bowditch has scored four league goals for MK Dons this season

Four successive defeats and six games without a win have coincided with a remarkable upturn in fortune for Rotherham.

The Millers’ surge out of the bottom three has dumped Karl Robinson’s men deep into trouble and their first taste of the Championship looks like being a one-season affair.

Until last month, it seemed that Rotherham were heading down, together with Charlton and Bolton.

It is now MK Dons occupying 22nd place and they head to Deepdale on Saturday nine points adrift of safety with five games to play.

Robinson is refusing to give up on survival, even though the odds are stacked against his team.

He said: “We’re still not relegated, first and foremost.

“But I understand the predicament and the situation we are in.

“It doesn’t look great and it looks extremely difficult for us topull something out the bag.

“Now it’s a case of restoring pride.

“We have to still believe that the football gods are still out there.

“Given our luck, we’re owed a lot and that could help us.

“We’ve fallen short in a number of areas this season, we have to be honest.

“The league table doesn’t tell any lies and right now we are the third worst team in the Championship.”

MK Dons’ predicament was exasperated by a 4-0 defeat at home to Rotherham last Saturday which opened up the nine-point gap.

Despite the margin of defeat, Robinson felt the result had been harsh on his players.

“I don’t think we were outplayed or outfought,” he said.

“But if you don’t put your chances away and make silly errors, that’s what’s going to happen.

“We were by far the better team between the two boxes. In the first 15 minutes, we missed two very good chances – at this level and in games of this magnitude, you have to take them.

“In the two boxes, we’re not as good as the rest of these teams – they are the areas which define teams.”

MK Dons’ dip in form these last couple of months is in contrast to what they were doing a year ago.

A run of nine wins and a draw from the final 10 games of last season saw them pip North End to second spot.

On the last day of the season they overtook PNE to go up automatically, together with Bristol City.

Preston got up via a trip to Wembley and have found the second tier far more to their liking than the pair who were promoted in front of them.

After being promoted, MK Dons lost two influential players.

Dele Alli, who had been sold to Tottenham part-way through last season and then loaned back, returned to White Hart Lane and has since become a regular for Spurs and England.

Will Grigg had been on loan from Brentford, the Bees selling him to Wigan in the summer.

The pair scored 36 league goals between them and such a strike rate is something MK have struggled to replace in the higher division.

Josh Murphy, who is on loan from Norwich, is their top scorer with five league goals and two more in the cup competitions.

Long-serving striker Dean Bowditch, approaching the end of his fifth season at MK, has netted four times in the Championship.

Former Morecambe and Southport man Carl Baker has five in all competitions, while January buy Alex Revell has scored twice since arriving from Cardiff City.