From one of League One’s most reliably strong sides, MK Dons are now deeply embroiled in a relegation fight that looks set to consume them.
As they prepare to welcome Rovers to stadium:MK on Saturday, Milton Keynes are desperately in need of a win to give themselves a fighting chance of avoiding the drop.
We spoke to Milton Keynes Citizen sports editor Toby Lock to get the lowdown on the Dons and just what has gone wrong this season.
Q: From the outside, this looks like a disastrous season for MK Dons. What were the expectations for the campaign going in?
TL: Disastrous is about right. Big things were said at the beginning of the season, with Robbie Neilson and Pete Winkelman boldly aiming for automatic promotion.
It was pretty clear from early on that would be a pipe dream, but few could have predicted how bad it would get.
Neilson’s tenure ended, and unknown to anyone outside of MK1 (and some inside it too) Dan Micciche was brought in but while they remain a point from safety, it hasn’t been the turnaround anyone wanted.
Q: How concerned are you about the threat of relegation?
TL: I’m hugely concerned. I think they need three wins and a bit of luck but the run in is incredibly tough.
Realistically, that means winning both of their homes games (including Doncaster) and at least one of their road trips to Southend, Bradford or Shrewsbury on the final day.
It’s a massive ask now.
Q: How has Dan Micciche been received since taking the job?
TL: It has been a mixed review I think. Some want to back him because he plays a nice brand of football, and a lot believe he has walked into a difficult situation.
However, plenty also feel an experienced head was the way to go with a club in a relegation zone, rather than someone who has never coached above U16 level before.
Q: What style of play and system does Micciche favour?
TL: Recently, he has been playing with a three-man defence, wing-backs and two up front. But we’ve seen three up front, a diamond in midfield, a flat four midfield, two up front and a man in behind.
As to what he favours, I don’t think he knows yet.
Q: Who are the danger men for MK Dons?
TL: The biggest threat will be Chuks Aneke, in a very literal sense - he’s a giant! He is a key man for Dons not just for his power and physical advantage he carries, but because he’s a good ball player and brings people into the game.
Peter Pawlett is another one to keep an eye out for. His driving runs tend to drag attacks up with him.
Q: Match prediction?
TL: I think, given the situation they find themselves in, Dons have to go all out to win this game.
Their home form recently has been on the up, despite losing to Blackburn, and they’ll want to avenge their drubbing at Wigan.
If they concede early though, expect heads to drop.