Tranmere Rovers 3-2 MK Dons: Dons’ struggles on the road continue

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MK Dons’ torrid away form continued to plague them on Saturday as they were edged out of a five goal thriller by Tranmere Rovers.

Former Dons striker Ryan Lowe capitalised on an early Shaun Williams mistake to give Rovers a seventh minute lead, before two wonderful individual efforts from Daniel Powell in the first half and Jason Banton in the second had Dons in the lead.

But a Lowe penalty and James Rowe’s first professional goal settled the 3-2 scoreline. Dons haven’t scored a point on the road since the end of August.

New signing Jordan Spence went straight into the starting lineup after signing on loan from West Ham on Thursday at the expense of Tom Flanagan.

After the far-from encouraging performance on Tuesday night in the 1-0 defeat to Carlisle, Dons looked bright in the opening five minutes, holding most of the possession and territory.

Dons’ former top scorer Ryan Lowe left stadium:mk for Prenton Park in the summer and captained the Tranmere side, but such has been Dons’ luck so far this season, he capitalised on an error after just seven minutes to put the home side ahead. A long ball over the top looked to be bread and butter for Shaun Williams, but he miscued his header back to Ian McLoughlin, allowing Lowe in unchallenged. Allowing it to bounce, Lowe neatly lifted the ball over McLoughlin from the edge of the area, giving Rovers an early lead.

It didn’t seem to rattle Dons much though, and they continued about their way. Dean Lewington chanced his arm from just outside the penalty area, forcing Owain Fon Williams to the ground to tip it around the post in Dons’ first meaningful attack. And Fon Williams had his heart in his mouth when Patrick Bamford charged down one of his clearances, but fortunately for the stopper, it deflected out of play.

There was another massive let off for the visitors though, this time when they were caught napping from a throw-in, allowing Abdulai Baggie the freedom of the penalty area to burst in to, but his shot rippled the wrong side of the net.

In the absence of Stephen Gleeson, Dons, particularly in the centre of the park, looked void of drive. With Chadwick pushing forwards to help Bamford, there was no-one to make a late run or burst in to the box, or mop up loose balls 20 yards from goal.

So Daniel Powell took it upon himself to take on that mantle, and with it scored Dons’ equaliser six minutes before the break. Picking up the ball just beyond the half way line, the winger took it past three players as he surged towards the edge of the box, firing in low left footed, nestling into the bottom corner of the net.

Dons could have been ahead before the break, with two efforts from Bamford and Banton hitting just wide of the mark, but both had Fon Williams scrambling to even get close.

From wanting the half time whistle, Dons had suddenly flipped the script and were the ones in the ascendency, but had to accept being level at the break.

But they weren’t level for long as Jason Banton answered his critics with an equally brilliant goal three minutes after the restart. Picking up the loose ball just inside the Tranmere half, he looked for a pass, but with nothing on, ranged forward. Turning James Rowe inside and out, he cut back on to his right foot to beautifully bend the ball around Fon Williams’ dive to put Dons ahead.

James Kirby squandered a wonderful opportunity three minutes later for the home side though, opting to go it alone after breaking down the left, but had two men over if he got his head up. His shot was easily tipped wide by McLoughlin, but from the resulting corner, James McNulty fired just over the top.

After a fairly impressive start to his Dons career, Spence had two minutes to forget, which ultimately cost them the lead. After pulling down Lowe 25 yards out, resulting in a free kick, he then pulled down Chris Atkinson, leaving referee Steve Rushton no choice but to award a penalty. Lowe did the business from 12 yards to pull Tranmere level.

The lead should have lasted just two minutes, but the usually reliable Bamford crafted himself some space in the box, but incredibly shot wide from eight yards.

It was developing into a real end-to-end thriller, with chances for both sides as they went searching for a winner. Lowe, on a hat-trick, sent one just over the top while McNulty put in a timely challenge on Bamford as he was about to pull the trigger to deny him.

Robinson introduced Izale McLeod and Samir Carruthers late in the day as Dons looked to turn the screw and for most remainder had the home side penned in their own half. But a counter attack caught Dons cold as Atkinson was allowed to cross deep and with Kirby arriving late, he cut back to James Rowe to slide in his first professional goal, and more importantly, the goal that looked set to win the match with six minutes to go.

The defeat, Dons fifth consecutive loss on the road, sees them slip to 11th in League 1.

Referee: Steve Rushton

Attendance:

Tranmere Rovers: Fon Williams, Holmes (Jennings 31), Taylor, Hateley (Rowe 46), Lowe, Baggie (Horwood 74), Atkinson, Kirby, Power, McNulty, Ridehalgh

Subs not used: Stockton, Sodje, Koumas, Watkins

MK Dons: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Lewington, Williams, Spence, Potter, Reeves (Carruthers 81), Chadwick (McLeod 78), Banton, Powell, Bamford

Subs not used: Flanagan, Hodson, Smith, Baldock, Burns

Booked: Spence, Horwood