There is always one moment in a season that finishes with promotion or relegation.
It’s the one game or incident every fan will remember, every fan will talk about for years to come, frequently an ‘I was there when’ moment.
Last season for Karl Robinson’s MK Dons, apart from the delight and enjoyment that Stadium:MK embraced on the final day of last season, there was one or two in the run-up to that unforgettable day.
After three losses and a draw, Robinson’s men embarked on their incredible ten-match run that culminated with Preston’s loss to Colchester and the Dons’ hammering of Yeovil, but firstly let’s look back at a very significant week in the middle of April.
On a cold, windy night in Fleetwood, MK Dons earned a comprehensive 3-0 win at Highbury followed by a 6-1 trouncing of Leyton Orient.
Meanwhile, Preston squandered a 2-0 lead at home to Gillingham to draw 2-2 and ten-man Port Vale twice came from a goal down to take a point against Simon Grayson’s men.
That was the week the Dons closed the gap by four points, the week the Dons first smelt blood and the first sign Preston were cracking, a week that any MK Dons fan can look back on and think ‘that’s where it started.’
And if MK Dons are to drop back to League One this season, Brighton at home may well be that week all over again.
After Tomer Hemed had given Brighton a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead, Antony Kay popped up to give the Dons hope, but what followed in the next 20 minutes may have cost MK Dons their season.
Firstly, Kyle McFadzean, for some unknown reason, decided to perform what can only be described as a WWE move on Hemed.
This earned the centre-back a red card that will see him miss the Dons most crucial week of the season as they face two six-pointers against Fulham and Rotherham, which sandwich a midweek home game against Wolves.
Secondly, despite McFadzean’s stupid decision, which is far from his first this season, the Buckinghamshire outfit rallied and earned a late, late penalty that would have moved them level on points with Fulham.
So, who’s idea was it to let Carl Baker take it?
A player who has not stepped on a football field competitively for 77 days was allowed to take a penalty that cost the Dons a point.
But it was so much more than that too, as Baker and his team-mates walked off just a couple of minutes later they looked dejected, all the momentum built up in the three games previous was gone, as was the players confidence.
They looked devasted.
It begs the question, why didn’t someone else take it? Still on the field were two strikers and Dons top scorer Josh Murphy.
Or failing that, why didn’t Baker go down the middle? You can’t miss, David Stockdale was not just going to stand there, was he?
Ben Reeves has proved this on two occasions already this season.
For none of the other outfield players to step up and leave it to a man still on his way back from injury is frankly shameful.
Thirdly, criticism has to be aimed at Winkleman and the board after the club was surrounded by turmoil all week.
It may have made absolutely no difference, but the Dons left themselves with one natural central midfielder after suspending Samir Carruthers on Thursday.
Was James Collins, the Northampton player who not only performed the same act as Carruthers, but proceeded to THROW his urine off the balcony banned? No.
Because Northampton have not put their ‘family club reputation’ before what happens on the pitch, their board are aware they have a promotion to fight for and need their best players playing.
Collins made up for his misdemeanors by scoring in the Cobblers’ two-goal comeback at Stevenage on Saturday, Carruthers should have been allowed to repay his mistakes with a performance that would have kept the Dons away from the drop-zone.
Instead, the Dons made the headlines for the second time in a week by suspending the midfielder, attracting more media and news than was needed, potentially distracting the team.
Furthermore, Baker’s penalty miss gives even more momentum to Rotherham, who jumped above the Dons and Fulham with their fourth win in five over Ipswich and may be set to pull away, leaving the final relegation spot to be fought for between Robinson’s men and the Cottagers.
A spot they’d be nowhere near if it wasn’t for Antony Kay’s own goal at Leeds, last-minute equalizers to Middlesbrough and Huddersfield and Saturday’s mistake.
But many Dons fans would also have felt the shift in momentum on Saturday, a shift that felt awfully bleak within the four Stadium:MK stands at 5pm last weekend.
It’s now pressure on for the Dons to forget Saturday and drag themselves out of the mire in just eight games.