By Gerry Prewett.
Bristol Rovers entertain MK Don on Tuesday evening with just 4 games of the season remaining and know that to give themselves any chance of survival they need to win all of them. History would suggest that the first of those challenges might be the toughest. All the games between Rovers and MK Dons have been played since 2006 and the Dons certainly have the advantage with 8 victories to Rovers 4, with 3 games drawn. In Bristol the record reads 2 Dons victories to Rovers 3 and 2 games drawn.
One notable feature of games between the clubs is how close they are. There has only been one 0-0 draw and the biggest winning margin was the 3-0 MK victory in Milton Keynes on New Year’s Day last year.
The first clash between the teams in Bristol was on 17 February 2007. The Dons took the lead 10 minutes after half-time with a goal by Jon-Paul McGovern. With just 10 minutes of the game remaining Stuart Nicholson equalised for the Gas.
The biggest winning margin for Rovers took place when the teams crossed paths at the Mem on 28 October 2017 Rovers ended a three-game losing run. Having seen a Rory Gaffney effort cleared off the line in both halves, they were relived to see Tom Nichols notch a rare goal. On 65 minutes, Nichols pounced on Ed Upson's mistake and calmly slotted home. Seven minutes later Gaffney added a powerful second to wrap up the points.
The last game in Bristol saw Rovers come out 1-0 winners in a typically Graham Coughlin hard fought match on 12 October 2019. The Gas controlled possession for most of the game and would have won by a greater margin had they been able to take the other opportunities that came their way. With Jonson Clarke-Harris out injured, Rovers lacked a focal point in attack at times, but there was enough about their performance to give confidence going forward.
Tom Davies’ swept finish over Lee Nicholls early on in the second half proved to be enough to give the Gas a victory that continues their push into the play-off places. The Gas were hit by injuries to midfielders Liam Sercombe and Ed Upson as the second half progressed, but they were still able to see the game out in relative comfort thanks to a strong defensive performance from their trio of centre-backs.