By Gerry Prewett.
Darrell Clarke’s Bristol Rovers team will be looking forward to their visit to MK Dons this weekend, where they can expect to play on a pitch that will allow them to display the passing game that the Rovers’ Boss says suits them. The surface at Stadium MK doesn’t seem to be doing the home team any favours, they have won just 4 of their 16 home games so far this season.
The Dons have had a difficult season with Coach Robbie Neilson being sacked at the end of January with the club in 21st spot and just one win in 11 games. Since Dan Micciche has taken over things have not got much better. In their six League games since his appointment, they have lost 4 and drawn 2.
The latest of these was last weekend at Fleetwood, who recently sacked Uwe Rossler. Taking on a team on an eight-game losing streak, Dons started brilliantly when Robbie Muirhead fired them into a 16th minute lead. Ouss Cisse found Chuks Aneke, whose one touch put Muirhead through and Muirhead wasted no time in bending it past Alex Cairns from the edge of the box.
After Ike Ugbo missed an easy chance early in the second period, Fleetwood struck back immediately through Ashley Hunter who bent in a strike past a full stretch Lee Nicholls and into the top corner to the home side draw level.
Nicholls needed to make three excellent saves to keep the home side out as Dons fizzled out, holding on to take their second point in a week. The result leaves Dons still mired in the drop zone, 22nd and five points from League 1 safety.
Coach Micciche felt his side deserved their first win with him in charge. "I think we deserved all three points to be honest. We were denied a clear penalty at a key moment, then missed a great chance in the second half, 60 seconds later they scored. And that was a defining moment.”
"It was a different type of game to Wednesday but I think we did enough to win it. Rome wasn't built in a day, we need to hit the ground running. I don't know the other results, but we know the points total we have to get to, so I'm not looking at the table. As long as we concentrate on our process, we're building. The players are up for the fight."
Talking about Muirhead’s goal he said, "Robbie did really well to be in the position in the first place. We know he strikes a good ball and we know what he's capable of. He just needs the confidence and belief that he can be effective for us in the run-in."
Rovers record against MK Dons is poor, to say the least, overall they have won 2 drawn 3 and lost 6. At Milton Keynes, Rovers have drawn 1 and lost 4. The very first game was on 19 August 2006 and the home team ran out 2-0 winners, Lloyd Dyer netted on 30 minutes and Clive Platt on 64 minutes.
On New Year’s Day 2011 the Dons won easily in Milton Keynes, 2-0 in a match that they bossed from start to finish. Daniel Powell gave the home team a 10th minute lead and three minutes later it was doubled when Peter Leven found the net.
Last season the game turned out to be a real thriller. Dean Bowditch (16 minutes) and George B Williams (24 minutes) both scored well worked goals before Matty Taylor (46 minutes) pulled one back for the Gas. The two goal advantage was restored by Ben on 66 minutes and everything seemed to be pointing towards a 3-1 home wine before a Taylor double on 87 and 88 minutes gave Rovers their first ever point at Milton Keynes.
Scorer of MK’s goal last weekend Robbie Muirhead spoke of his recent improved form, “I’m loving my time under Dan and I’m really enjoying my football. When I wasn’t playing I looked towards my form during last season because I know I can do it in this division. I knew I could cut it in his league, I did start to doubt myself a little bit but that’s what happens in football. I took a lot of confidence from my performances last season and I’m hoping to start showing my ability in the run in.”
“When I wasn’t in the team and I wasn’t getting on the bench I was really low and didn’t feel great. That period has taught me that you can never get too low when things aren’t going well and when they are it’s important not to get too high.”
Speaking about a new formation for the team, he went on to say about Micciche “He’s changed the shape and opted for three at the back, I think we look a lot more solid defensively with that formation. We’re still conceding sloppy goals but I think it’s clear for everyone to see we’ve improved at the back.”
“It’s up to myself and the other attacking players to start scoring more goals and putting games to bed to get us out of the position we are in. We all need to start converting chances and putting games to bed. The quality is there within the team and we can all score goals. There is no doubt in my mind that we will start winning and we will start scoring goals too.”