By Gerry PrewettTonight Bristol Rovers travel to meet MK Dons with a spring in their step, having come off the international break with a hard fought 2-1 victory over a resilient Gillingham team.
Rovers had momentum on their side before the break and there is always some concern that it might be broken but that fear proved to be unfounded as once again Rovers came from behind to secure points.
Whilst Darrell Clarke is tongue in cheek lamenting his team’s failure to take the lead in games his opposite number, Karl Robinson at MK Dons is left looking for a first home win since 5 March.
As Rovers were coming from behind to sensationally deny Gillingham with a last minute goal on Saturday, Paddy Madden of Scunthorpe was the Don’s nemesis. The Dons, with one of the best away records in the Football League, took the lead 8 minutes before half-time when Ben Reeves was allowed space to get in a low cross which was turned home by striker Kieran Agard.
The game was turned on its head as the Iron made a DC like double substitution on the hour mark bringing on Madden and Kevin Van Veen. Just six minutes after coming on the duo combined as Van Veen fired in a shot in a shot that keeper David Martin could not hold and Madden raced in to apply the finishing touch from close range. Madden took the Iron into the lead in the 81st minute, as he hit a shot low into the bottom far corner from a Josh Morris ball into the box.
Speaking after the game Robinson said, "We didn't deserve to lose. We came to a team that is top of the league and we should have got more than we got out of the game. It was two breakaway goals that cost us but the player’s appetite and desire was there for all to see.”
"I don't think we deserved to win but I thought it was too very good teams who deserve to be top of the league."
He went on to express disappointment with the Refeering, "The referee lost control of the game in some ways. Mark (Haywood) is a real good guy but Samir Carruthers got booked but he was kicked from pillar to post for 75 minutes. We got no protection at all. I got seven players booked here for nothing.”
"Some of our players put in one tackle and got a booking, while their midfield put in four, five and six tackles and got nothing. I thought it was a gritty game but certainly an entertaining one and we are disappointed as you can imagine.”
"Our job was to put their two centre backs and goalkeeper under pressure. We did that because their keeper made some unbelievable saves and their centre back was man of the match."
There have just 12 games played between the Rovers and the Dons, in the various guises, and it is MK wgho hold the upper hand with 7 victories, to Rovers 1, and 4 draws.
In the League the teams first met on 29 September 1981 when they were known as Wimbledon. They tied 2-2 at Eastville with doubles by Gary Mabbutt for Rovers and Dave Hubbick for the Wombles. The home team won the return fixture 1-0 in South West London with a goal by Mike Smith.
The last time the teams met in Milton Keynes was on New Year’s Day 2011 the Dons won 2-0 in a match that they bossed from start to finish, Dan Powell and Peter Levan being the scorers.
One notable feature of games between the clubs is how close they are. There has never been a 0-0 draw and in the 12 games in only 5 of them has one of the teams drawn a blank and yet no team has scored more than 2!
The Dons will be without the suspended Joe Walsh and Darren Potter after both received their fifth yellow cards of the season on Saturday. Scott Wootton has been ruled out with a knee injury leaving Jack Hendry, on loan from Wigan, to come into the team to cover for Walsh. Ed Upson returns to the reckoning after completing his suspension.
Robinson is looking to break that home game voodoo with games against the Gas and Southend next on the fixture list. He commented, "There's only one way of getting out of this rut and it's a massive two games it really is. We've got to try and put it right over the next two games, if we don't it's going to be hard we know that but we have to get it right.”
"I can sense we're in a good place, we're not in a good place because of the results at home but we're five points away from the play offs and this team will finish up there, I'm sure of that I really am, I've never diverged from that statement.
"It's a very challenging time but if you keep believing in what you're doing and keep believing in what you've recruited players to do, results will certainly follow."
"What more can we do, they're working so hard, again we went to 4-4-2 on Saturday, every system you can try for this group of players, and we've got one system we want to change.”
"We're trying everything internally to make it happen, got someone coming in to help with our strikers today to give us a bit of a buzz around the building, we're going to train on the pitch today to try and replicate some of those movements in training.
"I got taught this a long time ago, when things aren't going right, imagine someone coming in to do your job, what would they do, you've got to take yourself out of your own position, look at what you're doing right and wrong and we've done that.
"As a group of staff we've looked at what we can change and sometimes it just boils down to just being lucky please, I'm a firm believing in the harder you work the luckier you get and that doesn't happen over one or two games."