MK Dons manager Russell Martin has called on his team to bounce back from a home defeat by Crewe and do enough to end the season strongly.

Martin spoke after a 2-0 home defeat to Crewe courtesy of two early goals in the first 20 minutes. The result leaves the Dons in midtable.

The manager said he wanted more from the final 7 matches of the season than just to drift to the end, as this was part of the challenge to prepare for next season.

He said, “I said to the players what they’ve done has been too good on a journey too tough to let it drift away to the end of the season. It’s a big challenge for us now as a group mentally to make sure we finish as strongly as possible. We are playing to prepare ourselves next year so games like this don’t happen. The amount of change we’ve had has been huge and today, it probably showed as those guys were so in tune and we need a bit more time.

“The challenge is now to make sure we are finishing the season as strongly as possible. It looks like we can’t go down and we’re not going to get promoted, but I don’t want us to fall into a trap of thinking we can relax to finish the season. Every game matters and we are preparing for next season all the time. We have to get as many points out of this season as possible.”

The Dons’ next match sees them travel to Ipswich on Saturday as part of a busy run of football, and Martin said he was looking for the team to show some of the style that saw them win four matches in a row before this defeat.

He said, “What we have to do is avoid turning this into two, three or four games. If you’re serious about next season, you have to bounce back from losing very quickly. We have a brilliant chance to do that on Saturday at a ground they should all be looking forward to playing in. We’ll go there and hope to bounce back from today. The guys had four wins on the bounce with good performances and they’ve shown what they’re capable of.”

Talking about this game in isolation, Martin admitted his irritation at the team making a very slow start and failing to respond quickly enough to mistakes.

He said, “It’s really frustrating and really disappointing. We started really poorly. The intensity, energy and urgency was just nowhere near the level it has been recently.

“I can accept us making mistakes. I’ve spoken lots of times about it that you have to accept we are gonna mistakes at times as we are trying to develop and improve all the time. We have guys who have not played a huge amount for us that are still working out and finding the different adaptations in a game they might have to make against different opposition.

“But I just didn’t think we reacted well enough to mistakes. We didn’t start well. We had a warning sign early on with a set piece where a guy wasn’t being marked and Fisher had to make a really good save. Then they score two really poor goals from our point of view and they didn’t have to work hard enough for their goals. We were playing against a good team who had some good moments, and I don’t think we conceded a huge amount of chances after that, but it took us too long to get into our stride.”

In the week, Martin had discussed a poor performance in a defeat to Crewe at their place early in the season. The Dons boss said the team was better than they were that afternoon.

He said, “Let’s not get it mixed up. That was nothing like the performance up there. We created very little up there while they had numerous chances. Today was a different game. I think what the difference was if you look at them, they’ve been very consistent with the group they’ve had and what they’re doing for 2 or 3 years.”