Match wrap – MK Dons 1 Oxford United 2

“A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arseholes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly from arseholes, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.

Tim Minchin

The criticism of Boris Johnson and his government hosting Christmas parties and then lying about it during last year’s lockdown is completely justified. It is not so much their sense of entitlement that should be criticised, but the damage they have done to achieving any kind of collective action against the pandemic. 

The fury extended to Allegra Stratton, the government’s spokesperson caught on camera all but confirming the party happened. She is more a product of than a contributor to the culture. Inside the bubble, behaviours can be justified – everyone is doing it, nobody said otherwise. It’s no different to the unspoken collective decision of fans at The Kassam to not wear masks at games. It’s probably wrong, but we still do it. Confronted with the reality from the outside has clearly caused her a deep emotional trauma. There was a rabid pile-on with people picking apart her apology as an insincere sham. It should be possible to hold two apparently conflicting opinions – that the parties and lying is wrong, but that some of the individuals involved are genuinely mortified at their own behaviour. I hope someone is looking after her. 

Similar conflicts exist with MK Dons. For all the opprobrium surrounding their origins, there’s still a lot to admire. The parking is good, the people are friendly and the facilities are first class; we would kill for something similar. Even their commercial work is to be admired; whenever there’s a corner, an advert for Yokohama tyres flashes up because, well, they’re good on corners. Sadly there’s no advert for traffic wardens for each penalty or any promotion of dustbin men at a throw-in. Some people will have you believe that just because their origin story is wrong that everything else about MK Dons is wrong. It isn’t, in fact, as a modern football club, it’s pretty much a model to aspire to.

Filling the stadium will only come with success, based on their crowds, their fanbase – that is, the crowd they might expect without any boost from results – is not dissimilar to our own. It’s a big venue to generate an atmosphere in when it’s a third full. Otherwise, it’s a team lifted straight from a textbook of how to run a modern club.

Fittingly, the first half yesterday saw two teams drawing from the same textbook. Modern football is based heavily on possession and fitness, the aim is to move the ball around at pace until someone loses concentration and a gap appears. Most of the first half followed this pattern; they played down the flank drawing Sam Long out of position, exploited the gap he left and scored in what looked like slow motion. 

The finish looked like something you see on the training ground – the ball hitting the net was almost an aside, the interplay that led to that moment was the critical moment.

Despite the goal, both teams returned to their playbooks, moving the ball around at a reasonable pace without any real purpose. Mark Sykes broke free on the right to cross to Matty Taylor, but he was judged off-side. With both teams in anonymous monochromatic kits, they could have been filming for a training video. 

The stadium fell silent, the shouts of the players could be heard from the stands, the board went up to indicate the amount of injury time to be played – one minute – it was a half of virtually no incident.

With the stadium going cold, the players now into their third consecutive away game and the rain pummelling down, MK Dons could simply put the game into a sleeper hold. If they could keep us quiet, we’d run out of steam long before the final whistle and they could take the points. It was turning into a grim afternoon.

At half-time the wind slightly changed direction, blowing the rain into the stand, we’d been sheltered from the worst of it for the first half, now it was driving into our faces. The textbook wouldn’t save us now, unless we used it as shelter.

In the second half we looked sharper and more purposeful, we started to make inroads into Dons’ territory. Encouraging, but not surprising. We were always likely to rally at some point, and this was it, but time was against us. In reality, a second half has about half-an-hour of football, the final fifteen minutes is attritional, tactics – the textbook – are an irrelevance. We needed to get something on the board, a point would have been OK.  

The moment when football gives way was becoming evident; tackles became more petty, confrontations between players more edgy, the clinical nature of the first-half was eroded by tiredness and the cold. Just past the hour, we were into the danger zone, substitutions would disrupt the flow of the game, players would run out of steam, the chances of getting anything from the game would seep away. 

Set pieces became important because they rely less on athleticism, Herbie Kane, swings in a near post free-kick, Matty Taylor’s positional instinct gives him a space to nod the ball goalwards, the keeper flops and it squeezes in. A goal. Just in time.

The clock is relentless, we wait for the moment when both team concede to the draw, happy with the point. That’s what the textbook says, protect what you have. With the pages sticking together and the ink beginning to run, the book is finally cast aside. Football is no longer about passing and movement, it’s about what’s left to give, what spirit remains, the will to win. 

The Dons have little in the tank, they continue with that most modern of afflictions – playing from the back. Theirs is a particularly extreme version, their keeper receives goal-kicks from his centre-back putting them under unnecessary pressure. It’s like they’re trying to prove a point, that they’re a proper football team, who does things properly, like the textbook says.

There’d been warnings, not just in the game, but last season too. It’s a strategy that frequently gets them in a mess. The keeper plays the ball out, Marcus McGuane who is fresh, presses the recipient to make a tired pass back to the keeper. His touch is poor in the rain and Nathan Holland pounces. For all Holland trickery, this is more prosaic; just get something on it, anything. The deflection squirts the ball across the pitch, the keeper’s prone on the floor, Mark Sykes is twenty yards out. Compose. Compose.

He takes a touch, and slides it home. 2-1. A goal of pure spirit. Now it’s just about holding on; the rain drives down, the ball skids ominously, they break down the right and Simon Eastwood spreads himself to block from three yards out. Moments later Jordan Thornily is dismissed, we’re now scrapping for the points. The resulting free-kick takes an age to set up, the tension rises, and then… the shot is plops into Eastwood’s hands. We’re home.

There is nothing wrong with the textbook, we gain more than we lose by using it. But, as MK Dons have found, it will only take you so far, you can’t create spirit and determination from a business plan.

Match wrap: MK Dons 1 Oxford United 1

It was the Scots who invented modern football. Their ‘combination game’ introduced passing between players as a guiding philosophy. Technically, it was far superior to the English code where dribbling was considered the highest skill, and where brute strength, handling the ball and hacking were all admired qualities.

The English considered the style effeminate, a dereliction of personal responsibility. It caused some to break away and create rugby, but even today there’s still admiration for players who are physical and aggressive despite England’s comparative failures as a national team. At club level, English teams started importing players from Queen’s Park; the great innovators of the combination game and so the philosophy travelled south. In 1882, the Scots beat England 5-1 at Hampden Park; part of a sequence of seven wins in eight and the combination game firmly took root. Passing was the underlying feature of the Hungarian team which destroyed England in 1953, the Brazilian World Cup winners of 1970 and the Spanish dominance of the 2010s. The English were left behind kissing their badges, getting stuck in and knocking it long.

It’s hard to imagine a tactical innovation with a greater impact; I’d argue that pretty much all tactical evolution since has been underpinned by improvements in fitness and sports science. Take, for example, the tactic of taking a goal kick to a defender stood inside your own penalty box. In the past, goal kicks were all about territory; the ‘keeper launching the ball to the halfway line.

This is an innovation of Pep Guardiola’s at Manchester City, presumably to counteract the ‘gengenpressing’ of Jurgen Klopp and the German school. If you can draw your opponents deep into your own territory, it’s possible to play in a counter-attacking style even though you have the ball. But, this is only possible if your players have the fitness to play with high levels of technical ability from one end of the pitch to the other. It’s hard to imagine Gary Briggs and Malcolm Shotton passing the ball to each other inside the six yard box with strikers baring down on them.

MK Dons have an almost kamikaze version of this approach. It’s like a public information film warning teams against it. The goalkeeper passes to the defender and then acts as an auxiliary full-back to receive the return ball. At one point yesterday their keeper was more advanced than their centre-back at a goal kick. More often than not, they find themselves in trouble, with strikers closing down as they dither. They were doing it in the first game earlier this season and seem not to have learnt a single lesson since.

In the iFollow commentary Eddie Odhiambo made the point that with 4-4-2 largely extinct, players now have one and a half jobs to do. Again, the improvements in fitness mean we expect players to do more than they did in the past. 

Karl Robinson’s obsessed with pace and energy; a reflection of his personality. Everything is breakneck, fitness levels need to be high, injuries are more likely. Against Portsmouth, that was used against us; creating such a noise that we couldn’t settle to anything. Against MK Dons, we came up against some shrewd heads and a decent amount of defensive discipline meaning that though we were dynamic throughout, they were able to cushion any blows we tried to land.

Take Brandon Barker, in full flight he’s an exciting player, but yesterday he found himself running into the traffic of a packed MK defence. With a bobbly pitch, he couldn’t quite carve out an opportunity. But, all over the pitch it was the same, Mide Shodipo and Elliot Lee struggled. We’d advance at a fierce pace but ran into trouble and the attack would break down.

There’s a lot about this that works; Dan Agyei’s impact was stunning; watch the highlights on YouTube almost everything we do involves him, even though he was only on the pitch for 19 minutes.

Against many teams, we’d get a couple of goals and be cruising by this method, but when we concede or struggle to make the breakthrough, the insistence of playing at the same breakneck speed works against us. Earlier in the season we’d tire, as we did against Swindon, but more recently we keep pounding away for the 90 minutes. But, it’s like in rugby when the ball is passed to the number eight with the intention of simply gaining a few yards before being bundled to the floor. We advance, but there’s little hope of making the breakthrough. We need someone to change the dynamic.

What was lacking yesterday was what we lack generally; leadership, someone to calm things down a little. We don’t lack experience, but it’s hard to see who is dictating the tempo or changing the angles when things aren’t working, or if we simply need a breather. John Mousinho was an organiser, John Lundstram could do it with his passing, we have James Henry, but presumably he’s not fit at the moment so is unable to act as the brains of the operation. 

It’s not on the YouTube highlights, but in the build up to the goal the ball is worked down the right flank. In a split second James Henry realises he may be offside, and leaves the ball to Anthony Forde. Henry stands still, allowing the play to move past him, bringing him onside and into play. It’s a smart move; it would have been easy for Henry to get caught up in the urgency of the situation and take a touch, potentially conceding a free-kick for offside. Forde and Henry exchange passes giving Forde the space to cross for Agyei to head across goal and Lee to bundle home.

Lee takes the glory and Agyei not only the assist, but hopefully the congratulations of his manager, but it was Henry and Forde’s clarity of thought which allowed the attack to develop. I was always struck by something Gary Neville once said about the Manchester United side under Alex Ferguson. In the last minute, the objective is not to bombard your opponent, but to create one quality chance. That’s what happened here.

In our 1996 promotion season, one pivotal, but underplayed aspect of our success was the prominence of Stuart Massey in the latter stages of the season. We had started with Chris Allen, who was fast and exciting, but working at that speed meant he was more prone to mistakes. When Allen fell out of favour, Massey came in. He had a bit more experience, and was a little more one dimensional, but he demanded the ball in a certain way; he didn’t have the pace to run half the length of the pitch, so he wanted the ball at his feet within the final third. Once he had it, his crossing was pin sharp. This alone unlocked the goal scoring ability of Paul Moody, whose job was to get on the end of the crosses.  The modern game doesn’t really allow for a water carrier – a Martin Gray, Dave Smith or Simon Clist – as Odhiambo said, players are expected to be fit enough to do the job of more than one person. But if we are going to take the step from play-off hopefuls to play-off contenders, we might need a little more brain and a little less brawn.     

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Rumpy Pompey

Saturday 20 February 2021

There was a dull stalemate on Saturday when Oxford’s trip to Ipswich Town resulted in a 0-0 draw. The game was decidedly underwhelming, particularly given that both clubs had been on fire the previous week. We mean, literally on fire

Meanwhile, Luton Town boss Nathan Jones has backed former Oxford striker Danny Hylton, saying he’d have scored more that ten goals this season despite a goal drought stretching back nearly two years. He just needs games, says Jones, and to stop living in a badger hole wearing shoes made of straw.

Sunday 21 February 2021

Former Oxford striker Andy Scott has been talking to Wales Online about his role as Head of Recruitment at Swansea City. Scott felt right at home when he walked through the door at The Liberty Stadium. “I inherited a recruitment department that was non-existent” he said “We were left with no analysts, no scouts, no reporting system.” In other words, it was totally David Kemped.

Monday 22 February 2021

March 26 is a date to mark in your diary and for MApp to tattoo on his forearm in Comic Sans. The big showdown between his Lincoln City table toppers and KRob’s Oxford has been moved for TV. The change to a Friday night gives fans the opportunity to get off their laptops for once and see football as it’s really meant to be; on an overpriced disinterested subscription TV channel.  

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Tuesday saw us slide to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Portsmouth. Oxford fans are aghast at our dramatic collapse in form following our best run of wins in 128 years. Is it too much to ask that we break that record twice in the same season? 

In brighter news, The Independent have done a profile of former Oxford United director and alleged child sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently in jail in New York. In it, they reveal that one of Ghislaine’s successes was to establish an Oxford United supporters’ club. Wait, not seen in months? Has their own supporters’ club? Good with the kids? Olly the Ox, is that you?  

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Brandon Barker’s loan is in crisis according to Rangers News. They’ve expressed their concern that Barker is not getting game time at Oxford when he could be not getting game time back up north. Barker has only featured in six of the last six games and none of them against part-timers Tunnock Teacake Academicals. How is that going to prepare him for the structural unfairness of the Scottish Premier League next season? 

Thursday 25 February 2021

It was the Eight Minute Forty-Five Second Fans’ Forum on Radio Oxford on Thursday with Josh ‘don’t call me ruffles’ Ruffels. Ruffles, er, Ruffels discussed his favourite game, not searching his name on social media – it’s Ruffels, not ruffles – and the car PClot bought the squad which looked OK until you tried to go anywhere and then it fell apart. PARP! PARP! PARP! – ANALOGY KLAXON. 

Elsewhere, MApp will be kept in dumbbells and high protein milkshakes for the next few years as he’s signed a new contract with Lincoln City until 2025

Friday 26 February 2021

It’s the KRob derby on Saturday at MK Dons. The Oxford manager is considered a god in Milton Keynes after guiding them to The Championship in 2015. Current manager, Russell Martin was asked whether the return of The Roundabout Bill Shankly added a bit of spice to the game “Not for me,” he said staring up at a bronze statue of KRob stripped to the waist astride a mighty stag outside the stadium “Coming back here probably adds a little bit for him – but it’s the same for me.” It really doesn’t bother him does it? And it’s absolutely fine that his wife calls out ‘Karl’ when they’re making love. Absolutely. Fine.

Meanwhile, junior glovesman Jack Stevens has signed a new contract keeping him at the club until 2024. Stevens has become well established in the first team since taking over the family business from, dad, Sensible Simon Eastwood. 

Midweek fixture: Oxford United’s biggest rivals… ranked

How do you measure a rivalry? Location? Envy? Superiority? Or is it just a feeling? A few weeks ago, I asked you who you thought were our biggest rivals. Well, here’s the top nineteen.

19. Peterborough United

Let’s not get carried away; it doesn’t take many votes to become our 19th biggest rival. This one is the result of a brooding dislike following the curtailing of last season and the antics of the Peterborough hierarchy.

18. Cambridge United

Really? I’m surprised so many lazy Sky Sports commentators voted. The tenuous varsity link between the two cities has never turned made it into the stands in terms of a rivalry.

17. Queen’s Park Rangers

While many of these lower rivals are based on a single issue, any rivalry with QPR is surely based on a single game, 34 years ago at Wembley.

16. Coventry City

Maybe a bit of a surprise to some, but if you live in the north of the county, you may be more familiar with Coventry fans than other parts.

15. Sunderland

The biggest team in our division probably attracts a few ‘pick me’ votes, but the added link of Stewart Donald, Charlie Methven and Chris Maguire, mean that Sunderland make the list.

14. Stevenage

The team that denied us promotion from the Conference in 2010, but most likely, any rivalry is down to one man and his drinks break; Graham Westley.

13. Wimbledon

Familiarity breeds contempt, Oxford and Wimbledon have shared many seasons together over a very long time. Alongside Luton, they’re the only team we’ve played in both the top flight and the Conference.

12. Bristol City

I can’t fathom this one, we’ve played each other once in the last eighteen years.

11. Crewe Alexandra

In almost any other season, Crewe wouldn’t attract a vote, but the vitriol surrounding their double postponement earlier this season adds a bit of spice to an otherwise dormant relationship. The only rivalry based on not playing any games.

10. Cheltenham Town

Into the top ten and we’re beginning to touch on more sensible rivalries. Cheltenham Town’s relationship must be down to location.

9. Leyton Orient

Some will never let it go; some fourteen years ago Leyton Orient came to the Kassam looking for a win to secure promotion. They did it in the last minute, which sent us down to the Conference. They danced on our pitch, apparently, though I’d left by then. Some will never forget or forgive.

8. MK Dons

The newest rivalry in the list. It’s not exactly what you’d call white hot, but geographical location has always promised a good large following and made MK Dons a decent away day.

7. Portsmouth

Portsmouth sat on their own in terms of votes – some twenty ahead of MK Dons, and a similar number behind Northampton. We’ve shared many seasons with Portsmouth, I think secretly we’re a bit envious of their size and history, which makes beating them all the more sweet.

6. Northampton Town

Now we’re into the real rivalries. First up Northampton Town, another team whose path we’ve crossed countless times. Added spice came from Chris Wilder leaving us for them in 2014, then keeping them up. Then two years later, Wilder took them up as champions despite Michael Appleton’s assertion we were the better team.

5. Luton Town

There’s a genuinely visceral dislike for Luton Town, we’ve played them in the top division and the Conference, we’ve been promotion rivals and they’ve poached our manager. All of which adds up to a relationship with a bit of bite.

4. Bristol Rovers

A team we’ve played with almost monotonous regularity, any rivalry is spiced up by the fact we’re both very capable of winning away in the game. Matty Taylor helped turn the heat up a notch, he hates the Gas, pass it on.

3. Wycombe Wanderers

It’s not a derby, but of all the non-derbies out there, this is the biggest one for us. We won decisively in a key game on the way to promotion in 1996, they beat us in the FA Cup when we were on a roll in 2010, six years later we secured promotion against them, and last year they secured promotion against us at Wembley. It’s not a derby, but it’s getting there.

2. Reading

Perhaps at the expense of Reading? We haven’t played each other in 16 years and not as equals in 19. But, a rivalry still exists, apparently, though it’s kind of like the Korean War – it’s still technically happening, but in reality it’s made up of irritating each other on social media.

1. Swindon Town

The big one. But, this list wasn’t really about finding out who our biggest rival were.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: A Question of Spore

Saturday 17 October 2020

Peterborough United’s nickname is The Posh because they have an air of undeserved self-entitlement. Mind you, that didn’t stop them winning 2-0 on Saturday. Oxford were without Cameron Brannagain, who missed out due to a problem with his eyes. Concerns were raised after he was heard to say ‘I can see us keeping a clean sheet for this one’ before the game.

Sunday 18 October 2020

Alex’s son, Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson was cockahoop at his team’s display; “I always felt the team who passed the ball better would dominate.” he said from beneath the shadow of his father. Impressive foresight from a man whose team’s passes were objectively less in number and accuracy. Not a mistake his dad would have made, we’re sure.

Monday 19 October 2020

Jedward third wheel Joel Cooper, has been named Northern Ireland Footballer of the Year. Cooper is spending some time with his family after returning from international duty. He’ll be celebrating in the traditional way of filming his phallus and sharing it on social media.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Soulless empty stadiums, people locked in their houses gazing vacantly at laptops, or what people from Milton Keynes call: ‘everyday’. MK Dons came to the Kassam conceding three goals to Matty Taylor, Headington United’s Sam Long before a proper whoop-dee-doo from Shodipo on his debut. He proper van Kessled it into the net. We also let in a standard couple of goals in reply to make it a 3-2 win.

Off the field, KRob is looking for Cowboy Derick to get on his Osei and ride out on loan to a Conference side. You see, in a team currently shipping on average two goals a game, KRob’s decided he needs to pack his squad with more strikers. It’s a positive attacking philosophy which says if they score four, we’ll just have to go out and score two consolation goals.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Paolo DiCanio was best known as a striker, but really his preferred position was on the right wing. He was never a real facist, though, he just liked some of the songs. Ahead of Saturday’s derby, the website D3D4 has taken the time to remember the time DiCanio goose stepped his way into Oxford in an attempt to lure the wholesome James Constable to his evil lair. Which ended well.

Thursday 22 October 2020

It was the Eight Minute Eighteen Seconds Fans Forum with Jose’s son John Mousinho on Thursday. Questions turned to our defensive frailties. Mousinho defended the issue, by which we mean he lost his runner and found himself a bit square at the back. He heaped praise on Headington United’s Sam Long as the ‘best squad player in the history of the game’. Which is like being called the world’s nicest mass murderer or sexiest paedophile.

Sad news as it was announced that Chrissy Allen has left the club. To mark his long association with Oxford, he was given his very own commemorative Unipart advertising display board to run head first into in his garden.

Pyromaniac Kemar Roofe scored the goal of this and every other century while playing for Rangers in the Europa League. After beating two players deep inside his own half, he executed a perfect Leven tap-in over the keeper from 65 yards out.

Friday 23 October 2020

Good golly Miss Molly, Saturday’s derby has been postponed after a viral outbreak in the Swindon camp. The Swindon training ground was a hideous sight with people yacking their guts up, doubled over in agony with vomit coming out of their noses. All you could hear for miles around were the primal groans of great sickening anguish and screams for death’s sweet release. And then they caught coronavirus.

Match wrap: Oxford United 3 MK Dons 2

I don’t know which way is up anymore. The hours seem to drag, but the months fly by. It’s nearly November and the football season’s just started. Last night we watched MK Dons’ operate a suicidal ploy of playing from the back using their goalkeeper as a right-back. It was like something Barcelona would try, but in the hands of lower league footballers, the move was so telegraphed, they ended up in a panic each and every time. You wonder how many times their manager might have to look at it before deciding it’s a bad idea. More than twelve, judging by last night.

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, last night’s win has made this Oxford United’s best start to a season under Karl Robinson. That’s Oxford United who were bottom, are now 20th and who are shipping an average of two goals a game. I repeat, never at this stage of the season have we had it so good. 

What that shows is that Karl Robinson’s Oxford are traditionally slow starters. I don’t buy the idea that we should all just accept that, relax and wait for the inevitable tsunami of glory. Coventry lost three games last season on the way to the title, Luton, Wigan and Sheffield United won their League 1 titles with only six defeats. If you have ambitions for the title, you can’t throw four of your six lives away in the opening few weeks.

Admittedly, the play-offs are more forgiving, historically you can make the top six with more 13-15 defeats, such is the inconsistency of teams further down the ladder. But, it’s the height of arrogance to assume you can take a few punches in the face and not find yourself lying on the canvas with your teeth in the lap of a gangster’s moll at ringside. You can’t just accept these things, you have to question why they happen.

Management guru Peter Drucker coined the phrase ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’; you can have the best plans, processes and targets, but if you don’t have the right norms and behaviours your plans are meaningless. 

Michael Appleton was a strategy guy, he famously had Plan A and no Plan B. He literally played things by the book – and that book is Legacy by James Kerr. Pep Clotet was so strategy orientated, he was blind to the impact it had on everything from culture to results. Like Jeremy Corbyn claiming he’d won the argument during the last election when he’d, metaphorically at least, conceded seven at home to Wigan. 

Karl Robinson is more a culture guy; he’s all about developing the whole player and by extension the whole club. But while strategies are written, cultures are grown, they take time, need a lot of tending and protecting and can be unpredictable.

I’ve always thought that Robinson’s slow starts have been down to his hectic way of playing football. New players end up hanging onto the coattails of their teammates as the ball pings round and players switch from one shape to another at a bewildering rate. 

Think of Alex Gorrin last year, he was booked in his first four games for the club with his late lunging tackles. His time at Motherwell hadn’t prepared him for life under Karl Robinson. Then he looked like a liability, now, judging by his performance last night, he looks like the lynchpin to our defensive security. 

Sean Clare, who has looked out of sorts, had a much more assured game against Peterborough, and was better still against MK Dons. Marcus McGuane was similar; last night he had his best game in an Oxford shirt having looked off the pace in the first few weeks of the season.

I wouldn’t want to suggest that Karl Robinson is unique, but short termism in football is likely to promote a more strategic, command and control approach to a team. The average length of a football manager tenure in the Football League is a fraction over a year. That’s all you’re given to make a mark. In most clubs, the only chance the manager has is to drill their players like an army to get them to perform. There simply isn’t the time to develop a productive culture.

So new players perhaps need more time to settle into a culture which wants them to take responsibility for their role and doesn’t treat them like unthinking automatons. Perhaps that’s why we tend to start more slowly, players simply need to grow into their new club. 

Tiger is an important factor in all this; there have been a number of times when he would have been justified in getting rid of Robinson because the results haven’t been good. But we should benefit from the patience he shows, offering Robinson the space to grow the culture he needs. That can only benefit the club; not only in short term goals of play-offs and promotions, but in the longer term by creating a rolling programme of good quality players to enhance the first team and generate transfer revenues. In a world full of distant foreign owners with a short term views of success, I’m constantly impressed by Tiger’s strategic foresight.

That’s not to say we’re out of the woods just because of a win over MK who, let’s not forget, have gone 13 months without winning on the road. We still look shaky at the back and won’t be helped by Rob Atkinson’s injury. This is a microcosm of the issue; there were times that he looked excellent, a worthy replacement for Rob Dickie, but the question is whether we can keep him on pitch.

None-the-less, a weight has lifted a little, particularly when considering what’s coming up on Saturday, if we can ignore the occasion – which will be much easier to do without a crowd – and continue to evolve the culture and embrace the new players into it, then things will begin to look hopeful.