Rough ride for Robinson
Three days before MK Dons lined up for their final regular-season match of 2011/12, assistant boss John Gorman announced he would be retiring from football that summer. It is difficult to estimate exactly what impact that departure has had on MK, who went on to lose out in the League One play-offs in May, but his absence is certain to have been felt.
Karl Robinson lost a trusted and experienced number two, and it may not be coincidence that his side have so far failed to hit the heights in the third tier. Although they have been held back by familiar failings – struggles against the top teams.
His charges have managed five league victories from 13 outings this term with each success coming against a club currently in the bottom half of the standings: Oldham, Carlisle, Yeovil, Bury and Crewe. They were edged out at Swindon in August, held at home by Notts County a month later and lost out against second-placed Stevenage at the weekend.
So as Robinson takes his men south to fourth-placed Crawley on Tuesday night, we’re taking a bit of the 6/4 available about a home victory.
It was a similar story last term, even with Gorman in the dugout. In ten clashes with the other top-six outfits, MK won twice – both 1-0 successes, against Stevenage in August and a Sheffield United side missing their leading scorer in April.
And we’re not convinced that the demands placed on Robinson are likely to do much for that record. Chairman Pete Winkleman made it clear in pre-season that nothing less than promotion would be accepted, lumbering the young manager with an extra dose of pressure. This time it’s all on his shoulders.
Crawley may not yet be the finished article either but Richie Barker’s men have demonstrated the sort of killer instinct which has occasionally eluded their opponents. Barker hasn’t been afraid to encourage his side to blaze all their impressive guns.
As a result the Reds have found themselves on the end of a couple of heavy-looking scorelines – 0-3 at Swindon, 2-5 against Tranmere – but it has paid off in the shape of narrow victories over Preston, Bury and Hartlepool.
And in light of MK’s recent troubles, we fancy that sort of attacking approach to pay dividends.
Meanwhile, we’re willing to take a chance on a side with new-found cutting edge. Colchester under John Ward were painfully stale. United’s final 13 matches of 2011/12 brought nine draws, three defeats and a single victory, and it was little wonder that nine winless games at the start of this campaign saw the manager dismissed.
But with former U’s defender Joe Dunne at the helm, the Essex outfit have rediscovered a killer instinct. The Irishman has led his charges to four league victories in five, and they’ve managed three clean sheets in that time for good measure.
A trio of canny loan additions have been down in no small part to the revival, with Jabo Ibehre (MK Dons) striking four times and Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond (both Arsenal) once each since arriving last month.
And they can play their part again when Colchester travel to Leyton Orient in midweek. The O’s find themselves in 16th thanks much to a three-game winning streak in September but they’ve lost three of their last four in the league, failing to find the net in each defeat.
Indeed, Russell Slade’s charges have drawn a blank in half of their six home fixtures in League One, so we’re siding with the visitors at bigger than 2/1.
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