A goal from Madger Gomes was cancelled out by MK Dons as Rovers were forced to settle for a point in the opening game of the Sky Bet League One 2020/21 season.
Darren Moore handed league debuts to Josef Bursik, Rayhaan Tulloch, Taylor Richards and Tyreece John-Jules while Reece James returned to the starting XI after recovering from his recent injury.
First big chance came MK Dons’ way with their new signing Lasse Sorensen unleashing an effort from 25-yards which deflected off Josef Bursik’s bar, providing a wake up call for Rovers and keeping the shot stopper on his toes.
MK Dons' approach throughout seemed to be shooting from distance, with David Kasumu and Bailly Cargill also firing on goal from outside the 18-yard box. This showed how comfortable new recruit Bursik was with dealing with pressure from afar.
Rovers’ newest recruits Tyreece John-Jules and Rayhaan Tulloch didn’t take long to make their mark on the game. John-Jules provided a dipping ball from the right wing which just missed its intended target Tulloch at the far post.
Rovers captain Ben Whiteman found a gap in the oppositions defence, deciding to take a chance from 30-yards but his effort spun wide of Lee Nicholls’ post.
More pressure from Rovers saw a ball over the top of MK Dons’ defence which lands at the feet of John-Jules who at an acute angle takes a shot on goal but it is easily saved by Nicholls from close range.
Former Rotherham United striker Carlton Morris had one chance during the first-half. He took a weak shot through the legs of Joe Wright which wasn’t on target, providing no concern for Bursik.
Towards the end of the first period John-Jules had a period of attempting over-head shots on goal – with the last one coming at the end of a corner routine which he was unfortunate not to finish.
Throughout the first-half Taylor Richards showed exactly why Darren Moore brought the attacking midfielder to the Keepmoat Stadium. His eye for a pass was exceptional, highlighted through his link-up play with Jon Taylor on numerous occasions. Not only that but his special awareness was outstanding, as he was prone to a back heel pass.
The second-half started in a similar fashion to the first with MK Dons enjoying most of the possession and Rovers absorbing the pressure and waiting for that moment to break through.
Eventually the patience paid off with Madger Gomes firing Rovers in front from the edge of the 18-yard box with a powerful strike. An impressive goal complimented by an even more impressive assist from Tulloch who showed wonderful feet before delivering the timely ball to Gomes.
An attempted cross from Reece James is squandered by MK Dons bodies who are quick to mark the Rovers left back.
MK Dons became rattled since Rovers took the lead with the game becoming increasingly scrappy. John-Jules was upended by his marker which caused some friction. The resulting free kick was whipped in from Jon Taylor but amicably defended by Russell Martin’s team.
Ex-Rovers midfielder Jordan Houghton went into the referees’ book for a fouling Richards while he was in his stride. The resulting free-kick was taken short by Whiteman but MK Dons quickly extinguished any threatening attack that Rovers were able to forge.
It was a cruel late blow for Rovers who caved in to the pressure from MK Dons eventually, with Bailly Cargill sliding past Bursik after a quick one-two with his teammate Morris.
Darren Moore’s side had to settle for a point at the end of a scrappy affair following the late goal from Cargill. There was still plenty of positives for the side as they head to Charlton Athletic in a week’s time seeking revenge for the 2018/19 play-off defeat.