Rovers head to Stadium MK this Saturday as they face off with one of Sky Bet League Two’s strong starters, MK Dons.
Currently sitting in second place after four games, The Dons have enjoyed a promising start to life back in the fourth tier of English football as they search for promotion at the first time of asking.
Scoring 10 goals in their first four games, the Buckinghamshire side started the new campaign by coming out as 5-3 victors in an eight-goal thriller at Wrexham and backed that up with a 1-0 home win against Tranmere Rovers. A first loss at Crawley Town followed by two goals to one and they most recently edged a thrilling game against Colchester United as 3-2 winners.
LAST TIME OUT
Colchester United 2 MK Dons 3
Sky Bet League Two, Saturday, August 19, 2023
Line-up: Craig MacGillivray, Tommy Smith (Conor Grant 77), Jack Tucker, Warren O’Hora, Daniel Harvie, Dawson Devoy, Ethan Robson (Ashley Hunter 63), Alex Gilbey, Cameron Norman, Jonathan Leko (Matthew Dennis 63), Mohamed Eisa (Brooklyn Ilunga). Subs not used: Nathan Holland, Nathan Harness, Max Dean.
Goalscorers: Eisa (8), Gilbey (88), Dennis (90+10)
With 40 international caps to his name for Scotland, Graham Alexander returned to the dugout with MK Dons this summer following a year out from professional football and will be tasked with mounting a promotion push in his first season at the helm.
As a player, the Coventry-born midfielder made over 800 senior appearances in a career spanning over 22 years with the likes of Scunthorpe United, Preston North End and Burnley – scoring 107 times in the process.
His managerial career started with North End as caretaker but his new career didn’t really take off until he arrived at Fleetwood Town in 2012 as he guided the club to Sky Bet League One for the first time in the club’s history in 2014.
Two years at Scunthorpe United came in 2016 before Alexander joined Salford City in 2018, guiding them to National League play-off final success and an EFL Trophy Final.
Covid-19 would disrupt that cup run and the Scotsman would never see the arch with The Ammies for a second time as in January 2021, he would head north of the border to manage Motherwell.
Despite a fifth-place finish in the Scottish Premier League, Alexander left by mutual consent in July 2022 and is now looking to guide The Dons back to the third tier.
THE KEY MEN
Keeper: Craig MacGillivray
The 30-year-old signed for MK Dons in the summer having spent the last six-months with Burton Albion and keeping a clean sheet on the final day of the League One season that kept the Brewers up and sent his new club down. MacGillivray started his career at Stalybridge Celtic but his big break came at Portsmouth as his penalty heroics won Pompey the EFL Trophy. In 2021 he signed for Charlton Athletic but left for Burton in January 2023 and is now looking to make up for the fate he helped deliver to MK.
Defender: Jack Tucker
At the age of just 23, Tucker will be looking to surpass 200 senior appearances this term in what will be his second season with The Dons. A Gillingham academy graduate, the centre half spent five seasons in Kent and scored three times in 116 outings for The Gills. Loans at Greenwich Borough and Hastings United aided Tucker’s development before he left the stable for Milton Keynes at the start of last season and has made 42 appearances for the club to date.
In Midfield: Alex Gilbey
Having previously helped guide MK Dons to promotion in the 2018/19 season, Gilbey has returned to Buckinghamshire looking to repeat that achievement. The midfielder first made a name for himself at Colchester where he made 110 appearances before arriving at MK in 2017. 11 goals in 92 games and a Player of the Year award in the club’s promotion campaign followed before he left for Charlton in 2020. He turned out 60 times for the Londoners over two years before been sent out on loan to Steve Evans’ Stevenage last term where he achieved another fourth tier promotion. Now back in the white strip, Gilbey has featured in every game so far this season.
Up top: Mohamed Eisa
MK’s number 10 had an unconventional start to a professional career having come through a private youth academy and spent time on the non-league circuit before a break in the EFL came with Cheltenham Town. A 23-goal campaign came for The Robins and so came a Championship move with Bristol City. It didn’t work out in Somerset and Eisa joined Peterborough before arriving in Milton Keynes in 2021. The striker has scored four goals already this term and is looking to lead the club’s promotion charge.
Following the club’s reform, Rovers first met MK Dons in the 2004/05 League One campaign and did the double over their Buckinghamshire counterparts – first winning 1-0 at the National Hockey Stadium and then enjoying a 3-0 Boxing Day victory at Belle Vue. Since that first meeting, the two sides have met 16 times in total, all in League One, and Rovers have won on eight occasions with The Dons winning on three.
They last time the sides went head-to-head was in January 2022 when Joe Dodoo’s neat finish was enough to claim Rovers’ first “on the road” three points of the season at Stadium MK.
TURNED OUT FOR BOTH
Both clubs enjoyed the services of fan favourite, Lewis Guy. The Penrith-born forward started his career at Newcastle United and made a sole UEFA Cup appearance for the Magpies, before first joining Rovers in 2005. After a successful loan spell in South Yorkshire, the Cumbrian spent five years with Rovers, scoring a combined 18 goals in 148 appearances – and notably the club’s first goal back in the second tier against Derby County. In the summer of 2010, Guy joined MK Dons and spent two seasons there, scoring twice in 35 outings for The Dons.
In 2012, Guy headed north of the border to join St Mirren and then had spells with Carlisle United, Gateshead, Barrow and Chorley before retiring with Annan Athletic in 2016.