MK Dons cruised to a 3-0 victory at the expensive of Tranmere Rovers on Family Fun Day at stadiummk.
Dean Lewington’s ninth minute header opened the scoring for the Dons and the hosts went on to dominate through to the final whistle with Stephen Gleeson netting before the break and Darren Potter adding a third early in the second half.
The victory knocked Ronnie Moore’s Rovers side out of the play-offs and kept the Dons within nine points of the top six with nine games remaining.
It was an impressive performance from Karl Robinson’s men who, by the boss’ own admission, need ‘to climb a mountain’ to reach the play-offs, but took a big step in doing so with such a convincing display.
Stephen Gleeson was handed his first start in three months as he and Patrick Bamford were introduced to the side following two changes to the side which suffered defeat to Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night.
Gleeson moved into the midfield three to play in the supporting role behind lone strike Ryan Lowe while Bamford took up the position on the right-hand side meanwhile Adam Chicksen
dropped back into right back.
Tranmere had been the surprise package in the League all season, but arrived at stadiummk in a difficult run of form and aiming to re-establish their grip on a place in the play-offs.
Rovers, who have suffered a number of injuries of late, had the first chance at goal when Danny Harrison drilled an effort wide of the post in the opening moments.
However, it was the Dons who broke the deadlock in the ninth minutes when a superb curling strike from Dean Bowditch came off the top right-hand corner and Lewington, who had watched the ball all the way followed up with the rebound.
It was the first League goal to have come from the Dons skipper this season, and the left-back almost looked shocked as he wheeled away to celebrate with his team-mates.
The Dons had a good control on the game and were able to play their quick passing football in a fairly open game at stadiummk.
On the 20 minute mark the Dons appeared to be in a bit of trouble when goal scorer Lewington went down but after a short period of treatment, he appeared to shake it off.
The match stuttered slightly as a drop in tempo interrupted the flow of the game and stopped the Dons from turning the screw. In a scrappy phase of play Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro went close to finding an equaliser for the guests as he sent a close-range overhead effort wide of the post.
The Dons’ nice passing was opening up avenues for them and Shaun Williams tried to double the host’s lead when he rocketed a free-kick over the bar.
As half-time approached the match livened up again with Liam Palmer breaking down the right to cause chaos for the defence as Mamady Sidibe burst into the box yet could not get the connection needed to beat Ian McLoughlin in goal.
Moments after nearly finding an equaliser, Rovers found themselves two goals down when an excellent through ball from Williams found fellow Irishman Gleeson who tucked home a delightful finish two minutes before the break.
The Dons continued their good work after the interval when a Williams free-kick was excellently hit over a Rovers wall only to be denied by the bar, however, Potter acted fast on his instincts and was able to head in the rebound to take their lead to 3-0.
Tranmere tried to stop their heads from dropping but when a mistake gifted Bamford the opportunity to make a 50 yard run they must have felt the weight of the world on their shoulders. As good as Bamford’s run was though; it was greeted by a poor touch from Lowe which meant the chance in front of goal slipped away.
Dons’ afternoon didn’t quite go all to plan though, with Lewington finally forced to hobble off in place of Jon Otsemobor.
Robinson followed the forced change with a tactical double change as he introduced fresh legs in the form of Izale McLeod and George Baldock for Gleeson and Bamford.
The Dons were in cruise control which almost allowed Rovers to find the back of the net 11 minutes from time when Akpa Akpro ran amok through the left of the Dons’ defence to cut back for Zoumana Bakayogo had an empty net to finish into yet somehow blazed over.
In the late stages Lowe had chances to make the score line even more emphatic with an effort falling wide and being fired directly at Fon Williams. It wasn’t needed though, three goals was more than enough for three points and a shot of confidence too.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Chicksen, A Kay, Williams, Lewington (c) (Otsemobor 64); Potter, Lines; Bamford (Baldock 71), Gleeson (McLeod 71), Bowditch; Lowe.
Subs not used: Kouo-Doumbe, Smith.
Goals: Lewington 9, Gleeson 43, Potter 50
Tranmere Rovers: Fon Williams (c), Holmes, Black, Taylor, Palmer, Harrison (Bell-Baggie 63), Bakayogo (Stockton 81), Power, Gibson, Sidibe, Akpa Akpro.
Subs not used: Mooney (GK), Amoo, M Kay, O'Halloran, Corry.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)
Attendance: 9,682 (601 away)
Goal-Don Goal times: 1st goal - 8.42; 2nd goal - 42.02; 3rd goal - 49.53