MK Dons manager Russell Martin felt the failure of his team to build on a positive opening half was their undoing against Sunderland.
The Dons enjoyed a lot of the ball and chances against the North East side, but the Black Cats’ more positive play after half-time yielded 3 points for Phil Parkinson’s play-off chasing side.
Speaking after the game, Martin said that the team were good in the opening period but failed to match it after the break.
He said, “In the first half, we were excellent. I thought we controlled the game and looked really strong defensively, and that we were the better team. Their players started arguing with each other down the tunnel at half-time, but credit to them, they came out in the second half and did a better job.
“I didn’t like our second half. I thought it was lacking a little structure and some anxiety crept in. They had a good backing and came out a little more aggressive, but I thought a draw would’ve been a fair result today and we haven’t got it. Its a great strike but it all happens too easy – we concede a sloppy free-kick, let him come inside and he scorers.”
Martin said the general performance showed the team weren’t far off the level of teams at the top of the division, but that they still had things to learn to match that performance ability.
He said, “We have to learn from it move on. Its another team that have come here in the top 6 and we’ve shown we’re really not that far away. Our mentality has still got to improve, especially with a second half where they approach it a bit differently and have a little more success in what they were doing, but I think we need to believe in what we’re doing a bit more.
“There’s loads to learn and loads to move on with, and there was lots of good stuff, especially in the first half but we’ve come away from 2 games where we probably should’ve got four points and ended up with none. We need to improve on it, and have to do better at getting in games when we concede first.”
New signings Louis Thompson and Ben Gladwin made appearances off the bench, with Martin admitting fitness issues over midfielders Conor McGrandles and David Kasumu forced his hand, along with Alex Gilbey’s failure to make the team after he pulled out in the warm-up.
“We had to use two of our new boys from the bench because we had Conor, who is knackered after a lot of games and had a whack on Tuesday so had done well to play today. Obviously, Alex Gilbey pulling out in the warm-up really affected us. He thought he could battle through his knee as he has done in the last couple of weeks, but he just couldn’t do it today. He’s been a really good and important player but unfortunately its the third time we’ve had somebody pull out in the warm-up.
“We had to use David Kasumu, whose been ill as well, so you probably wouldn’t want to make all the changes we’ve made today. But we have lads who have played a lot of football and hopefully we’ll be better for those getting minutes and better as a squad.”
Despite defeat ending a positive run at home, where MK Dons had won their previous 3 games, Martin refused to get carried away, saying he felt win, lose or draw, there was always something to improve.
He said, “I think we all are, regardless of results, because win lose or draw, we need to learn something from the game. Whether we’re winning 3-0 or losing 1-0, we have to learn. It feels good to win but we have to look on bits as it feels like there’s bits we can improve, which I also said when we had a really good run of form, and that’s still the case.”