ANOTHER strong performance from MK Dons saw them move into the play-off positions as they saw off Tranmere Rovers.
Despite dominating the first half, and having several chances cleared off the line, it was not until the first minute of the second half that Daniel Powell broke the deadlock, and a special individual effort from Jabo Ibehre sealed all three points for the home team with a 2-0 victory.
Rowan Vine’s loan move from QPR was completed in time to be included among the substitutes, but Robinson was only able to name five reserves after injury once again ruled Sam Baldock out. He was replaced in the starting 11 by Luke Chadwick.
The reverse fixture saw Tranmere take the lead within three minutes, but at stadium:mk Dan Powell nearly took advantage after just two when a bouncing ball was misjudged by Ash Taylor to allow the youngster in behind, but keeper Tony Warner was wise to the situation and collected ahead of the winger.
The opening 10 minutes was largely played in Tranmere’s half. Lewis Guy, playing behind frontman Jabo Ibehre, was seeing a lot of the ball, but his tricky through passes were being picked off by the Rovers defence as the home side pressed for an early opener.
Ibehre scored his first league goal last week at Exeter, and with his confidence high, tried a bicycle kick from 10 yards out after Dan Woodard’s clever little return pass. Unfortunately though the acrobatic effort flew narrowly over Warner’s crossbar.
Rovers stuttered in getting going. Hot transfer property Dale Jennings looked ineffective through the middle after dominating the fixture earlier in the year from the left flank, but it was his dubiously given freekick on 25 minutes which offered he visitors their best chance, but the set-piece was too high and cleared to safety.
Joss Labadie went down under the challenge of Mathias Doumbe in the penalty area, which looked suspiciously like a dive and just seconds later, was on the ground again, this time collecting a yellow card for his theatrics after making the most of another clean Doumbe tackle.
Neat work between Peter Leven and Lewis Guy just after the half hour should have given Dons the lead. A quick exchange of possession allowed Guy to get to the by-line and with Warner approaching, passed the ball across the face of goal just inches away from the toe of Ibehre.
Dons were all over Rovers, and Powell had another great chance to open the scoring, this time rounding Warner, but his shot was cleared off the line by the sliding Kay.
Guy was incensed when a handball decision was not given from the resultant corner, but was at the heart of every move as he put another excellent cross into the box which was just ahead of Powell and Ibehre.
Luke Chadwick, making his first start in 2011, hit a powerful drive on goal, but it was straight into the chest of Warner as Dons kept plugging away before half time.
Incredibly, Powell had another shot cleared off the line when he brilliantly lost his man on the edge of the area and shot through a crowd of players, but Cresswell stood on the line headed clear. There was also just enough stoppage time for Guy again to have a penalty appeal turned away as the sides somehow went in level at the break.
But the sides were level for less than 20 seconds in the second. Ibehre’s powerful run to the by-line was cut back to the penalty spot, and Powell firmly struck right-footed shot sailed into the net, past Warner to give Dons a well-deserved lead.
But despite so much Dons pressure, their lead was nearly cut when Gary MacKenzie’s loose touch cannoned off Enoch Showunmi’s shin, almost allowing the Rovers striker through on goal, but the deflection was a heavy one and easy for Martin to collect.
Dons thought they’d doubled their lead when a clever Powell flick found Guy in space and he fired past Warner into the net, but he was narrowly offside and his effort was scrubbed off.
The visitors enjoyed a little spell of pressure around the hour mark, enjoying a lot of possession and territory but couldn’t cause any really problems for Dons keeper Martin. Jennings was struggling to make an impact against the likes of Doumbe, MacKenzie and Powell, and Showunmi was given little in the way of service in the centre as he tried to create problems in the box.
New loan signing Rowan Vine readied himself on the touchline and replaced Lewis Guy on 65 minutes as Dons switched to a 4-4-2 formation to get the second goal and kill the game off.
And it came shortly afterwards through the on-form Ibehre with a wonderful solo effort. Collecting a bouncing ball on the edge of the area, he shrugged off the challenge of Taylor, turned his back on goal, took a few strides and shot on the turn, giving Warner no chance.
A big clash of heads between Showunmi and Doumbe saw the latter substituted with a cut on his forehead, replaced by youngster Adam Chicksen.
Vine, who only completed his loan deal hours before kick off, was linking up well with Ibehre and nearly got himself on the scoresheet when he pounced on some indecision from Taylor, almost lobbing Warner.
David Martin was called into action late in the game, tipping over from a Showunmi header, but the last 10 minutes passed without incident.
The victory sees Dons leap into the last play-off position and will go into Tuesday night’s re-arranged game with Plymouth Argyle full of confidence.
Referee: Kevin Wright Attendance: 8,014
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Doumbe (Chicksen, 78), MacKenzie, Gleeson (G Baldock, 90) Woodards, Guy (Vine, 65), Leven, Chadwick, Powell, Ibehre
Subs not used: Searle, Hamann
Tranmere Rovers: Warner, Cresswell, Showunmi, Welsh, Taylor, McChrystal, Kay, Jennings (McGurk, 84), Bakayogo (Fraughton, 78), Labadie, Elford-Alliyu (Thomas-Moore, 74)
Subs not used: Collister, Wood, Akins, Morrow
Bookings: Welsh, Woodards, Labadie, Kay, Warner