Paul Lambert’s pre-match message was to “bring it on” as his Ipswich team went in search of another win at MK Dons.
And they duly delivered on their manager’s rallying call.
The Blues extended their unbeaten start to the campaign to eight matches as Jon Nolan scored the only goal to maintain their place immediately behind League One leaders Coventry.
The two table-toppers are the only teams without a defeat in the division and Ipswich have a game in hand over the Sky Blues and trail by just a point.
“I thought it was a fantastic performance, I really did. We were resolute and solid in the second half, but we should have been out of sight at half time,” said Ipswich boss Paul Lambert.
“It’s a brilliant goal from Jon, and the type he’s made a career from, and we could really have done with a second when we were on top but that happens sometimes.
“The boys have got a bit of a target on their back because of the size of the club, but we have to expect that. For so many clubs in this division we are going to be their cup final, but we were strong when it mattered and that’s got us through.”
Lambert was disappointed to see James Norwood pick up an injury, a reoccurrence of a groin problem from last season, but backed his young players to cover as the campaign takes its undoubted toll.
“We’re going to need everyone in the group to play a part this season,” he added.
“We’re getting fitter each week, and with the workload you have in this division, that’ll be another important factor as the weeks progress.”
The visitors were on the front foot from the get go, and moments after the tireless Norwood had been presented with the first opportunity of the game – which saw him denied by Russell Martin’s block – they broke the deadlock.
Emyr Huws’ teasing delivery was met on the move by Nolan, who applied a cute finish with the inside of his boot to leave Lee Nicholls with no chance.
Nicholls saved well from Kayden Jackson while MK Dons had their chances too, Jordan Bowery and Jordan Houghton forced Tomas Holy into point-blank saves while Callum Brittain showed plenty of attacking endeavour after his introduction.
“We gave it a real good go in the end and I felt we deserved something from it, but we’ve certainly contributed plenty, especially in the second half,” said MK Dons boss Paul Tisdale.
“There was no critical discussion at half-time about why we were losing – we felt we just needed to change our way, and the lads we brought on allowed us to go down a different route.
“The players are cross, agitated, frustrated in that changing room, but that’s a good sign, no? We’ve made a side that will be challenging for the title hang on there at the end and we’ll learn from this experience.”