MK Dons manager Russell Martin praised his team’s performance in grabbing a 2-0 win over Wigan.
The Dons boss spoke after second half goals by Scott Fraser and Ste Walker saw the hosts defeat Wigan at stadium mk.
Martin declared that the Dons played well in the opening 70-75 minutes, feeling it was suitably good at living up to his expectations at how he wanted the team to play.
He said, “I thought they were outstanding for 70-75 minutes, and probably could’ve scored a few more goals if we’re being really picky. I thought in the first half, some of the football was fantastic and I’m really proud of the players for the way they approached the game from the outset.
“So much aggression, intensity and conviction in what they did, and that’s not easy in the situation we’ve been in and the position we’re in. Its a real test of character that they’ve responded to tonight with a fantastic performance. We made a little more difficult than we needed to in the last 10 minutes than we probably needed to, but I understand the anxiety and tension when we’re desperate to win.
“There were some outstanding individual performances, but I don’t want to single anyone out because to a man, they were fantastic.”
Martin made six changes to the side from the weekend’s defeat by Blackpool, even if 3 were enforced due to suspension and illness, but the manager praised the adaptability of his squad to being able to continue his desired playing style in the face of both these alterations and recent results being below par.
He said, “Everyone has so much clarity in what is expected of them and what we’re gonna judge them on. They don’t have to be outstanding individually and do 10 stepovers and beating 5 people for us to praise them, as they have to do the small things and simple details really well. They need to look after each other with and without the ball, be aggressive in and out of possession, and hunt the ball back quickly – in the first half, they were outstanding at that.
“I’ve got real trust in the players not playing and in the stands watching. It genuinely hurts me when people aren’t in the squad because I feel so protective and so much love for this group in terms of what they give us and how much they give us. Its not easy to play this way, especially when there’s a lot of questions about the style of play and what we do.
“We have to justify it and hopefully performances like tonight go a little bit towards that. They’ve really shown a lot of character and bravery, and I’m just delighted for them.”
Walker scored his first Dons goal on his first start of his second loan spell with the club after a previous one in 2018-19, and Martin praised the impact of the Middlesbrough loanee.
He said, “He was great. When we signed him, I felt we were getting a different Ste to the one that came a few years ago, mentally and physically. He’s a guy that wants to prove himself and who I’ve got a good relationship with.
“He was better than I expected him to be. He’s not played for a while so I was expecting him to be a bit hit and miss but I thought everything he did was done with intensity and he was sharp. He’s got so much individual ability but its about piecing it together, a bit like Rhys Healey when we first took over. He knows the demands on him and has to rise to that.”
The Dons were missing Carlton Morris and Louis Thompson to a non-covid illness, and Martin said some players were feeling the effects of a lack of game time near the end, but that as this mix of players had produced a win, it would give him some interesting selection dilemmas in the upcoming weeks.
He said, “After a win, its difficult to make changes but we have to manage a squad where not everyone is fully fit. Lasse (Sorensen) played his first game in a while and cramped up towards the end, while Matty (Sorinola) played his first game in a while and will be feeling it tomorrow. We’re going to have to manage it but its a good headache to have when people are performing well and feeling confident.”