Dons out of the drop zone with emphatic win over Bristol Rovers
MK Dons started 2020 in perfect fashion with a 3-0 thrashing of Bristol Rovers to lift themselves out of the League One relegation zone.
Never in doubt from the very first minute, Rhys Healey opened the scoring after 15 minutes with an excellent solo strike but despite their dominance, Dons could not extend their lead before the break.
Despite a rejuvenated Rovers side emerging from the dressing room after the break, Sam Nombe's persistence paid off as he rolled home to make it 2-0 on the hour. Kieran Agard made sure of the result and the points with seven minutes to go with Dons' third.
The result lifted Russell Martin's side out of the drop zone, with a three-point gap back to Tranmere who replaced them in the bottom three.
After the 3-1 win over Portsmouth on Sunday, Russell Martin opted to make just one change. After playing a lot of football since his return from injury, Joe Mason was named on the bench, with Sam Nombe returning to the starting 11.
Bristol Rovers were dealt an early blow in the form of an injury to keeper Anssi Jaakola, who needed to be replaced after just 11 minutes by Jordi Van Stappershoef.
And his first point of order was to pick the ball out of his net as Rhys Healey scored his third goal in as many games after 15 minutes. Picking up the ball just inside the penalty area, he pinned and spun defender Rollin Menayese before slotting home the opener.
It was as dominant a first half performance as the fans at Stadium MK will have seen for a long time from their side. The midfield trio of Alex Gilbey, David Kasumu and Conor McGrandles were able to pull the strings and found themselves in acres of space as they gave Rovers the runaround. What they could not to though was find a second goal before half time, though that was not for want of trying. Gilbey twice came close, forcing Van Stappershoef to tip one strike wide before Abu Ogogo cleared another effort off the line. Healey too had one headed away from under the crossbar, but they had to settle for a single-goal lead at the interval.
There was a bit of a reprise from Bristol Rovers early in the second half as Dons' free-flowing football was stifled, certainly for the opening 15 minutes. But that decisive second goal came on the hour through Nombe's persistence. Winning the ball back on the edge of the penalty area, he out-muscled Alfie Kilgour before getting a shot away, which was parried back into his path for a routine tap-in to make it 2-0.
Though Rovers did try and force the issue late in the day, Dons made sure with seven minutes to go as the excellent Jordan Houghton unleashed Kieran Agard to lift the ball over Van Stappershoef to wrap it up.
Referee: Sam Purkiss
MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington, Walsh, Williams, Brittain, Houghton, Kasumu, McGrandles (Reeves 63), Gilbey (Mason 72), Healey (Agard 78), Nombe
Subs not used: Moore, Poole, Cargill, Boateng
Bristol Rovers: Jaakola (Van Stappershoef 11), Ogogo (Hargreaves 46), Craig, Upson, Sercoombe, Clarke-Harris, Nichols, Leahy, Kilgour, Menyese (Bennett 78), Rodman
Subs not used: Kelly, Russe, Tomlinson, Adeboyejo