Russell Martin’s most creative players ended up delivering the late Christmas presents for MK Dons against The Gass on Boxing Day. Today’s home win was reminiscent of wins by the same scoreline against Gillingham and Wigan Athletic earlier in the campaign at Stadium MK.
The Dons had a rare entire week to reflect on a poor defeat at the hands of Plymouth Argyle but it did not seem to have too negative an effect on the men from MK1 ultimately. This was despite David Kasumu having to withdraw from the match day squad on Christmas Eve and Matthew Sorinola had suspected coronavirus symptoms on the morning of the game so dropped out to play it safe.
The biggest surprise pre-game, aside from the late absences, was that the home side lined up with two centre-backs rather than the usual three. This meant that they completely matched up with Paul Tisdale’s formation. This change in shape did not affect the usual domination of the ball by Martin’s team.
The loss of the two brilliant youngsters did not seem to phase the eventual starting XI as Martin’s men came flying out of the traps. Many chances went begging for the men in white as it seemed like it would be another one of those home games for the Bletchley based outfit.
However, in the 48th minute of the half, Ben Gladwin: playing further forward instead of at wing-back, where he has found himself for most of the season, showed his manager why he should be playing in the attacking areas as he hit a monumental effort into the top corner on the stroke of half-time. It was nothing less than MK Dons deserved and would have changed the complexion of Martin’s halftime team-talk especially.
Half-time: MK Dons 1-0 Bristol Rovers
The former MK Dons manager must have delivered an effective team-talk during the interval as the visitors were much improved at the very start of the second period. His successor’s side weathered this storm and Rovers were unable to maintain this impressive pressure.
The men in black were made to rue those missed chances as van Stappershoef made a meal of a clearance and Cameron Jerome took advantage to play in Scott Fraser, who subsequently overtook his provider to become the Dons’ top goalscorer so far this season. He really ought to have had more.
The home side should have put much more gloss on the victory. Just like in displays against Gillingham and Wigan, the dominant hosts should have hit more than two. They rise to 16th in the table but one more goal today would have put them 15th on goal difference.
Full-time: MK Dons 2-0 Bristol Rovers
Man of the match: Scott Fraser