MK Dons manager Russell Martin said he was happier with his team’s first half work against Fleetwood Town than their second.
The Dons boss spoke after a 3-1 win over the North West side at stadium mk. A Joe Mason hat-trick was the decisive factor in the result. However, Fleetwood would press hard in their attempts to return and Martin admitted he wasn’t happy with parts of the second period.
Talking about the first half, Martin said he felt the team’s first half display was outstanding.
He said, “Fortunately for us, we’ve done enough in the first half to win the game. I thought they were outstanding in the first half, with intensity, connection for the team, mentality to press, desire to press with such ferocity and intensity, and it was something we worked on before the game about how important it would be.
“There were 3 top drawer finishes and I think we could’ve scored more goals. Cammy (Cameron Jerome) should’ve scored with a big chance to make it 4 and that would’ve been game over and we could’ve enjoyed the second half a bit more. But I’m really pleased with what I saw in the first half against a really good team who try to play the right way and have some really good players.”
Speaking about the second half, Martin suggested there were a number of mitigating factors, but that the overall play was less in keeping with what he wanted from his team.
He said, “I’ll be honest with you like I was with the players – I didn’t like the second half one bit. Not one bit. There are some mitigating factors – the pitch doesn’t help us at the moment, and you can see that, and we’ve had a lot of people play a lot of football recently, and we’ve got players coming back with a very young bench, and we are very low in depth and numbers.
“But we weren’t connected or as intense as we should be, and we didn’t play for each other as much as we should. I saw too much I didn’t like and the players know that. I don’t get emotional about results – I feel emotional about performance and players, as its clear what we judge them on, and too much of the second half, I don’t like.
“Of course, I’m delighted with the three points, but at the same time if we’re going to get better, the process remains the same win, lose or draw – we analyse it. We know the second half wasn’t good enough in a strange evening. Ultimately, I’m pleased but we conceded too many chances.”
Martin praised the efforts of his hat-trick hero Mason, as part of the team’s attempts to build him back up to speed.
He said, “All of them came from intensity, from being together, from pressing high and showing a real quality in the final third. I spoke a few weeks ago about how much quality Joe has and how much belief I have in him, and its about getting his body 100% right, which we haven’t been able to do enough. He’s getting there.
“Tonight, he was outstanding and really good, as was the general link-up play and the finishes. I’m not sure many people are able to do that on their weaker foot like his second one where he just slaps it into the top corner with his side-foot. Just outstanding. We need more of that from Joe, and get him on the pitch more. He showed real intensity to press tonight, and I was really pleased with him and Cameron, and it just gave the rest of the team energy.”
Martin also praised the efforts of keeper Andy Fisher, who made a number of key saves in the second period.
“He’s been excellent since he came in. Obviously, everyone can see how comfortable and confident he is with the ball at his feet, but he’s a top goalie when he’s required to make saves.
“The beauty of playing in goal for our team most of the time is he doesn’t really have much to do other than the ball at his feet as we limit teams to very little. Tonight, we had to use him far too much, but when he was called upon, some of the saves he made were outstanding. He made a save that was just fantastic, with Dean Lewington then throwing his body on the line.
“I said to the boys after they need to thank him because he was called upon far too much, but when he was, he was outstanding.”