MK Dons manager Russell Martin was happy with a “really good day” for his team as they bounced back from a heavy defeat at Lincoln to see off Portsmouth.
The Dons boss spoke as a Scott Fraser penalty helped his side defeat play-off chasing Portsmouth. Martin had called in the week for a reaction after a midweek thumping by Lincoln, and was happy by what he had seen against the South Coast side.
He said, “It was a really good day for us. I think playing against a team fighting for promotion with a real good chance of getting in the play-offs and have been re-energised with a new manager, we always knew it would be tough. It got a little bit messy in the second half at times, but we’re playing against a really good team who’ve committed a lot of people forward as they’re losing the game.
“The only disappointment for me is we didn’t score more goals. I thought we looked really dangerous today and really threatening. We got in their box on numerous occasions, hit the woodwork, Scotty has a good chance, Griggy gets two cleared off the line. I’m really pleased with the intensity against a team who play with a lot of aggression and intensity.
“It’s a brilliant reaction from Tuesday night. That’s why we don’t over react. We didn’t deserve to lose 4-0 on Tuesday night and it was a horrible scoreline for all of us, but as usual, the guys bounced back and responded brilliantly with their character, intensity, attitude to play and courage as well.”
This was the Dons’ third game in a week against play-off contenders, and Martin said the team’s motivation for this was to prove they could mix it with the promotion chasers ahead of a planned push next year. Martin said that he was pleased to see the mentality reset to bounce back from midweek.
He said, “I think if you look at the run of three games we’ve had against Ipswich, Lincoln and Portsmouth, all in and around the play-off places when we played them, everyone knew how big a task it would be this week. It’s difficult as well because we are playing for a lot as the guys to prove they can do it and are playing to test their mentality, but when you’re stuck in midtable towards the end of the season, it becomes difficult at times to find the same motivation and intensity. But the guys found that today after Tuesday. If you’d said 4 points from the 3 games, I think most would say that’s a fair return. Obviously we want more, but the 4-0 skews that a bit.
“The players deserved to bounce back the way they did today. They deserved three points after it. I’m sure there were a lot of criticisms and questions thrown at them and me after Tuesday so I’m pleased about today.”
Speaking about the decision that lead to a penalty and the call to send off Portsmouth’s Jack Whatmough for a tackle on Charlie Brown, Martin said he agreed with both calls.
He said, “I was a bit upset by the challenge to be honest. If Charlie leaves his leg there, it’s really dangerous. I don’t think they had too many complaints, though I think they tried. The reaction of our players told you everything you need to know. Once you leave the ground with both feet, it’s a big problem as you’re not in control of anything. I was glad Charlie was able to move away, but I don’t think there’s any complaints with the red or the penalty.
“It’s a blatant penalty. I felt we should’ve had won just before as Griggy is about to have a tap-in when he’s brought down. But it’s a tough job being a referee. I said it on Tuesday that it’s a tough job and tougher being a fourth official, but it is what it is.”
Martin was pleased to see the team compete all the same and stand up to the game’s more physical moments.
He said, “I think it was nice to see our players really compete brilliantly physically against a strong physical side. Apart from the red card, I thought it was fair, really competitive and a good game for anyone watching. I’m really pleased with the way the side stood up to that. There was a lot of fouls against them but they didn’t let that get to them. They just got on with the game they played and showed a real togetherness, which is really pleasing.”