WHEN it comes to the race for promotion to the Championship, Jermaine Easter reckons it’s a marathon not a sprint – and Jordan Rhodes agrees.
Both frontmen, who are set to go head to head as Town visit StadiumMK tomorrow (3.00), have charged out of the blocks for their new clubs this season.
They have six goals apiece, and will be in the hunt for more when third-placed MK Dons try to prevent fourth-placed Town leapfrogging them in the League I table.
Welsh international Easter, signed from Plymouth in the close-season, has struck five times in the last three games for MK, who are unbeaten in the league.
The 27-year-old struck twice in Tuesday’s 3-1 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win at home to Dagenham and Redbridge.
And that followed the Cardiff-born former Wolves trainee’s quickfire double which paved the way to last week’s 2-1 win at Exeter.
Both his goals in Devon came in the opening six minutes, and nomadic Easter, who has also played for Hartlepool, Cambridge, Boston, Stockport and Wycombe, knows MK have made a flying start under Paul Ince, back for a second spell at the club.
But he added: “While 11 points from five games is a great ratio, we need to focus on each match in turn. At the moment, the table doesn’t really mean much, but hopefully we will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.”
Easter also paid tribute to MK’s defenders, adding: “The lads at the back have been superb, and they’ve played a vital role so far.”
Keeping a first clean sheet of the season is high on Town’s agenda, and Rhodes, who like fellow six-goal striker Theo Robinson, was rested for Tuesday’s 2-1 JPT win at Rotherham, says the frontmen carry just as much responsibility as keeper Alex Smithies and his fellow defenders.
“It’s something we’re very aware of and working very hard on in training,” said Rhodes.
“Every player has a role to play defensively as well as offensively, and tomorrow would be a great time to start blanking the opposition out.”
“We’ve been scoring plenty of goals (22 in eight games so far), but when you keep clean sheets, victories are obviously that much easier to come by.”
A fourth win in six league games is the target for Town, but boss lee Clark will be under no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead.
MK appear to have shrugged off the disappointment of last season’s play-off semi-final defeat to Scunthorpe, and with Ince at the helm in place of Roberto Di Matteo, now in charge of West Brom, and a string of new signings in place, there’s a fresh feel about the Buckinghamshire club.
As well as Easter, MK have brought in Jabo Ibehre, the former Leyton Orient striker who scored twice for Walsall against Town in the penultimate match of last season.
Four new midfielders are on the scene – Stephen Gleeson and Lewis Gobern from Wolves, Mark Carrington from Crewe and Richie Partridge from Chester.
And reinforcing the defence are Danny Woodards (ex-Crewe), rugged Scotsman David McCracken (previously at Dundee United and Wycombe), Sol Davis (from Luton), Frenchman Mathias Doumbe (ex-Paris St Germain, Hibs and Plymouth) and goalkeeper Stuart Searle, signed from Watford, where he was a teammate of Town’s Robinson and Lionel Ainsworth.