There was a point around Christmas and the new year when many MK Dons fans felt the wheels had come off in the team’s pursuit of promotion. Just two wins in 10 games from 22nd December to mid-February, a run that included seven losses, saw boss Paul Tisdale under pressure.
Yet, the team has scrapped its way out of that bad batch, giving, as Tisdale put it, “robust and committed” performances, and climbed right back into the automatic promotion spots. With five games to go in the season, it’s hoped MK Dons will stay there, despite the set-back of a defeat to Lincoln at the weekend.
The bookies make MK Dons odds-on to gain promotion to League One, with a price of 2/7 from Bet365 and Sky Bet going a bit higher at 2/5. Mathematically, they can still be crowned champions, but the fact they are 100/1 and Lincoln are 1/100 tells you the title is almost certainly going to the Imps.
Mansfield game could decide automatic promotion
While MK Dons are favoured for promotion, it is certainly not guaranteed. A tough tie against second-place Mansfield awaits on the 4th May, and the upcoming game away to fifth-place Tranmere is also a very tricky one. Colchester, who MK Dons must visit at the end of April, are also gunning for a Playoff spot and will represent tough opposition. Even a game against bottom club Notts County will be a test, as they will be scrapping to avoid relegation.
In short, if MK Dons are to get that automatic promotion sport and shoot right back up to League One, they must to it the hard way. Bury and Tranmere are one point and four points respectively behind MK Dons. They are breathing down the neck of Tisdale and the team, who must keep them at arm’s length.
Of course, there is always the chance of promotion through the Playoffs, a prospect which seems to fill fans with a simultaneous sense of dread and excitement. The good news is that MK Dons have a 10-point cushion to 7th place. The bad news is that the Playoffs are tough to win, regardless of how high you have finished in the table.
Playoffs represent safety net for MK Dons
As for the odds, it gets a bit complicated. Sky Bet have cited 6/1 for the MK Dons to win the Playoffs, something that can be backed with a free bet. That’s a bigger price than the 3/1 cited for Forest Green and the 7/2 for Tranmere, simply because those clubs are more likely to need the Playoffs as a route to promotion than MK Dons. Others in contention include Mansfield (8/1), Carlisle (11/1) and Colchester (16/1).
Obviously, if MK Dons do get promotion, regardless of how they achieve it, it will cap off a good season for clubs in the local area. Luton Town sit proudly atop League One at the moment, seven points ahead of Sunderland. It would be a massive shock if they slip up with so few games remaining, and it looks almost guaranteed they will get their second successive promotion.
As for Northampton, unfortunately it’s a case of treading water. Again, it’s mathematically possible that they can reach the League 2 Playoffs, but highly improbable. Still, with two clubs in the local area hurtling towards promotions, one of whom is likely to a title winner, that’s quite the season for football fans in the region.