The game Tranmere have probably forgotten but Dons will remember forever
Speaking about games against Tranmere Rovers gives MK Dons fans a little tinge of nostalgia, harking back to one of the most important games in the club's history.
This Saturday, the clubs cross paths for the 19th time at Stadium MK, with both teetering dangerously above the League One relegation zone. Rewind 15 years, and Dons were in a similar position then too, only this time, anything but victory would send them down. And though it probably won't even register to Tranmere fans, it was the first 'where were you when' moment for MK Dons.
The stakes were piled high against Dons on May 7, 2005. Sitting in the relegation zone, the visit of third-placed Tranmere for the final game of the season at the National Hockey Stadium could not have been a tougher task facing Danny Wilson's men. Needing a win, and for Torquay to lose to Colchester, to survive, Gareth Edds cemented his place in Dons' history as the first real hero of the club.
Finding their feet in Milton Keynes during their first season as a Football League entity was proving harder than chairman Pete Winkelman had imagined. The club laboured around the bottom end of the table for the majority of the season. Sacking Stuart Murdoch in November, Wilson - a man with good pedigree in the Football League - took over and began to turn the ship around. While wins came at a premium, defeats were few and far between. In fact, from February, Dons lost just four times, and three of those came in a row in April, meaning Dons would need to win their final two games to survive the drop. Part one was complete when they beat already relegated Peterborough 3-0 at London Road. Up next was Tranmere.
Australian Edds was a regular in the side, something of a utility man, playing where he was needed. Racking up 43 appearances and three goals, his 44th of the campaign would be his most important. And it started brightly, firing home Clive Platt's knockdown after just six minutes.
Holding on to their lead, Dons made it to half-time but by that stage, all eyes were on the Colchester game (foreshadowing events 10 years later). Neil Danns' goal just before half time at Layer Road gave the home side the lead, and as it stood, Dons would be staying up. But Tranmere would still have a say in the game, and 20 minutes into the second period, drew level when substitute Dave Beresford fired past keeper Matt Baker.
If nerves weren't already shredded, they certainly were into the final 10 minutes. Colchester still led, but with things level at the National Hockey Stadium, Dons were staring at League Two football. Edds had been lively all game, buoyed by the opener. Trevor Marshall, the club's announcer, took to the mic with six minutes to go to announce him as the sponsor's man of the match and within seconds, he secured his fate as man of the season.
A long goal kick from Baker was flicked on towards Izale McLeod, who in turn angled his header towards Edds just outside the box, facing the Cowshed. On the half-volley, Edds rattled home his second of the match, and as it turned out, the goal which would keep Dons up. Colchester would go on to make sure of the result in the last minute when Marino Keith doubled their advantage over Torquay, before Craig Woodman's consolation further into stoppage time.
Though Dons would fail to make it back-to-back final day survival missions, suffering relegation the following season, Edds would continue with the club until 2008 when they earned promotion back to League One. His pictures are still posted around Stadium MK, and his trips back to Milton Keynes are lauded by the club. Before Dean Lewington, there was Gareth Edds.