Robbie Neilson praised the efforts of his players and their resolve as MK Dons beat Fleetwood 1-0 at stadium:mk.
The Dons boss spoke after a tight game at stadium:mk which was ultimately settled by a Chuks Aneke goal late in the first half.
Although the hosts were unable to extend their margin, the team held on and Neilson was pleased at how his team managed the game after going in front.
He said, “In the first half, I thought we passed the ball fairly well, created a couple of opportunities and managed to score the goal. In the second, it was 1-0 and its a difficult scoreline because they just need one chance, a slip or a wee bit of magic for them to get back in the game.
“Thankfully, the players stood firm. We didn’t take chances to go 2-0 up, but I’m pleased with the resolve. We stood up to it. Its a massive confidence builder for them and I’m pleased for the fans.”
Neilson also hoped the result would help the team build confidence in their ability to grind out single goal victories.
He said, “Confidence wise, people can talk about 1-0 wins and sometimes it can be drab and boring, but it builds confidence in the defence and in the team. They know that if they score the first goal, they can see the game out or go on and get more goals. I’m pleased with them all.”
The Dons boss also praised the efforts of the goalscorer, with Aneke scoring in back-to-back appearances after scoring a free-kick against Hyde in the FA Cup.
He said, “Chuks is a top player and has been chasing that goal. He’s been doing a lot of training, during and after, to work on his finishing. That’ll be a massive confidence boost for him because he’s been waiting for it, and I’m pleased he’s got it.”
Neilson said the team worked hard in the week on how to control Fleetwood’s 3-5-2, and offered praise for his wingers. Particular praise was given to Peter Pawlett, who was backing in the starting line-up after a difficult start to the season.
“We spoke in the week and did a lot of work on playing against Fleetwood’s 3-5-2. Amari’i Bell is for me on the best wing-backs in the league, and they played Burns on the other side instead of the suspended Coyle, but we did think he’d be pushing forward a lot as well.
“I thought Ariyibi and Pawlett were fantastic, as they did a lot going forwards, and shore up and move into a 5 or 6 at the back at times. We’ve missed Peter a lot as he has energy, pace and a quality understanding of the game.”
The result means the Dons have now won 3 matches in a row, following FA Cup and Checkatrade Trophy wins, and Neilson called on his side to close the gap on the top 6.
“The cup games were great to build momentum and get us into the next round, but the league is our main objective this season. Its an extremely tight league this year.
“We’ve not had a great start to the season. Hopefully we can pick up now but we’re only 4 points off the play-offs, which shows that very few teams have put a consistent run together. If we can manage to do that, when playing 3 games a week, we’ll pick up more points and be right in the play-offs.
“We need to remain consistent and confident and put the work in.”