It was a classic smash and grab for Rovers as they registered their first away win of the 2021/22 season.
Rovers’ defense blocked everything while goalkeeper Louis Jones saved the rest which meant Joe Dodoo’s first half strike was enough to secure three points on the road.
Gary McSheffrey made one change to the side that faced Cambridge United in midweek with centre-back Ollie Younger coming straight into the XI after joining the club on an 18-month deal in the week. Josh Martin – who spent the first part of the season in Milton Keynes - kept his place after impressing on his debut, and Jonathan Mitchell took his place on the bench.
The home side entered the game on the back of a five-game unbeaten run and confidence oozed from the team as they dominated the midfield. Younger played his part early on forcing Troy Parrott to shoot side and Kyle Knoyle put in a perfectly timed challenge at the edge of the box to prevent Mo Eisa from charging through on goal.
For all of the Dons possession it took quarter of an hour for them to register an effort on target when Scott Twine skipped beyond Kyle Knoyle and sent a left-footed effort on target. He didn’t connect with as well as he might have and it was a simple enough stop for Louis Jones at his near post.
Jones denied Twine again eight minutes later when his shot from range bounced off a bobble awkwardly and into the gloves of the shot-stopper.
Younger – now sporting a white bandage around his head after sustaining a cut on his head in the early part of the match – toed the ball away from Daniel Harvie as he lined up a shot.
Just before the half-hour mark, Rovers created their first chance. It was good build up down the right before Knoyle picked out Joe Dodoo with a chipped ball to the back post. The striker timed his volley brilliantly and drew an excellent stop from Jamie Cummings.
They eventually earned a corner with Ollie Younger closest to turning Branden Horton’s corner-kick delivery in at the back post. Horton was soon in the action at the opposite end of the pitch as he and Olowu threw themselves in the way of shots and Jones made arguably his best stop of the half as he got down to his left to prevent Parrott’s low shot from sneaking just inside the post.
It was bodies-on-the-line defending from Rovers as each and every played did their bit to block shots and make challenges to prevent the home side from taking advantage of their dominance. Among the defensive heroics was Matt Smith who appeared to defy physics to clear Conor Coventry’s header from a corner off the line.
Rovers took the lead completely against the run of play on the 41st minute. It was smart counter-attacking play by McSheffrey’s side with Rowe driving determinedly forward. The ball was eventually worked to Dodoo who slotted left-footed inside the far post.
MK Dons created several more good chances before referee Darren Drysdale blew for half-time with the best of these falling to Mo Eisa who was picked out by Harvie in the six-yard box. The home side’s No.10 headed more-or-less straight at Jones who pulled off a good reaction save to deny him.
The home side piled on the early pressure in the second period with Smith and Younger putting in blocks to deny Twine and Parrott within minutes of the restart, while a very shrewd bit of defending from Younger saw him in the right place at the right time to deny a cross that looked destined to pick Eisa out for a tap-in at the back post.
Rovers created their first and second chances of the second period just before the hour mark when Seaman – who had been brought on to replace the injured Ethan Galbraith – picked out Martin. The Norwich loanee’s effort was blocked for a corner before Horton’s corner-kick delivery was headed wide by Omar Bogle as he made his first touch after coming on for Kieran Agard seconds before.
Theo Corbeanu was next to go close for the home side. He skipped beyond the challenges of Horton and Smith and getting a left-footed shot off from the edge of the box. It looked like it might have been rolling wide, but Jones was down to make the stop regardless.
A Parrott cross from the left missed everyone and struck Horton on the shoulder. There were plenty of claims for a penalty from the nearly 7,000 Dons fans but Drysdale was unmoved.
A deep MK Dons corner-kick delivery on the 78th minute ended with Olowu sustaining a cut to the head leaving Rovers with just ten men for several minutes while he was bandaged up and given a new shirt – but Smith, Younger and Seaman cleared crosses and blocked passes.
Eisa should almost certainly have hit the target when Horton conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position. MK Dons worked the ball short and picked out the No.10 but he ballooned the shot over the bar.
For all the chances, possession and pressure, the closest MK Dons came was via a miscommunication between Jones and Younger. The pair seemed to leave the ball to each other only for it to almost evade both and trickle in, but Knoyle was alert to cover around the back and clear off the line.
Rovers, for their part, created two more chances on the counter-attack. The first ended with Cummings coming off his line well to deny Seaman. The second with Dodoo’s effort blocked.
As the game entered it’s fifth minute of added time, Eisa bought a free-kick at the edge of the box but Jones got down to his right to save from Twine. The Dons got a second bite of the cherry a few minutes later again it was Twine with the ball at his feet but again it was Jones who came out on top to ensure his clean sheet at Rovers' three points.