MK Dons signed off 2020 at Stadium MK with a dominant 2-0 victory over Bristol Rovers.
Russell Martin’s men controlled the Boxing Day affair from start to finish and deservedly went ahead in the final minute of the first half through a stunning Ben Gladwin strike.
Scott Fraser doubled the score just past the hour with his seventh goal of the campaign and he and his teammates did the rest from then on out to secure all three points and lift the Dons up to 16th up to 15th in the Sky Bet League One table.
A mixture of injury and illness forced boss Martin into making four changes to his side. In came, Ben Gladwin, Daniel Harvie, Warren O’Hora, and Andrew Surman to the starting XI while the list of absentees provided opportunities for Jack Davies and Lewis Johnson to appear on the bench.
The Dons made a dominant start but weren’t able to fashion a chance on goal until the 10th minute when Scott Fraser, from Regan Poole’s cross, forced Jordi van Stappershoef into a save at his near post.
Two minutes later, Poole had an effort of his own after meeting a looped cross from Harvie – his driven volley, though, was blocked.
Martin’s men then attacked down the left and some brilliant play involving Sorensen, Fraser and Harvie resulted in the latter having a curling shot deflected over the crossbar.
Bristol Rovers threatened for the first time just past the quarter-hour mark when Hanlan latched onto a through pass. However, Keogh got back for MK Dons and made a vital slide tackle.
Back up the other end of the pitch, Harvie delivered a low cross which skimmed behind his teammates in the penalty area. Fraser then teed up Gladwin, whose right-footed drive flew just past the left post.
Fraser was the recipient of a pull-back from Cameron Jerome on 31 minutes but the MK Dons number 10 saw his attempt on goal blocked.
The chances kept coming, with Surman the next to try his luck. He received a pass from Gladwin on the edge of the D but couldn’t keep his left-footed try down. A minute later, Harvie swung in a cross which was just a yard in front of a diving Jerome.
Martin was forced into a sub five minutes before half-time after O’Hora stayed down following a tangle of legs inside the Dons box. He limped off eventually and was replaced by Baily Cargill.
In the final minute of regulation time in the first half, Fraser had another effort deflected over by a Bristol Rovers defender. In the final minute of stoppage time in the first half, MK Dons took the lead.
After some patient build-up, Surman found an unmarked Gladwin on the edge of the centre-circle and he carried the ball deep towards the Rovers box. The midfielder had Poole available outside him but opted to go alone and, with a swing of his boot sent a shot flying past van Stappershoef and into the top right-hand corner of the net. 1-0.
Gladwin’s strike saw the Dons take a lead into the break but within a minute of the re-start, they almost found themselves level with their visitors, but a double save by Fisher from a Luke McCormick free-kick, and the resulting rebound, as well as a goal-line clearance by Cargill.
Fisher was called into action again on 51 minutes to deny Hanlan, but not before Poole had two opportunities to double the lead, failing to hit the target with either of his right-footed shots. Lewington then did enough to prevent Hanlan troubling Fisher from a left-wing cross.
Those defensive contributions proved all the more crucial on 62 minutes when the Dons doubled their lead through Fraser.
Surman started the move, intercepting van Stappershoef’s clearance and finding Jerome, who played the perfect through pass to the MK Dons number 10. He took one touch with his left foot before firing a shot across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. 2-0.
Martin went to his bench again on 69 minutes, introducing Joe Mason and 16-year-old Johnson for his league debut. It was Mason who had the chance to make an instant impact but he put wide from eight yards out.
Fraser also had a chance to make it three from a Poole cross with 18 minutes to play, however he failed to find the target with his first-time shot. The Welsh defender later had his own opportunity – a looping effort which landed on the roof of the Rovers goal.
McCormick threatened a way back for Rovers but grazed the bar with a sliced effort. Back on the attack, Fraser saw a potential third blocked by a defender on its way to goal, shortly before Harvie fired over.
John Freeman was the Dons’ final substitution with four minutes to play. He played his part as Russell Martin's saw out the remainder of the contest with relative ease - ending the year at Stadium MK as they started it, with a win-to-nil over Bristol Rovers.
MK Dons: Fisher, Lewington, Keogh, Gladwin (Johnson 69) Fraser, O’Hora (Cargill 41), Surman (Freeman 86), Sorensen, Harvie, Jerome (Mason 69).
Subs: Nicholls, Davies.
Goals: Gladwin (45+3), Fraser (62)
Booked: Gladwin, Keogh
Bristol Rovers: van Stappershoef, Leahy, Ehmer, Upson, Hanlan (Ayunga 84), Nicholson, McCormick, Kilgour, Hargreaves (Barrett 68), Baldwin, Koiki (Rodman 77).
Subs: Armstrong, Little, Liddle, Harries.
Referee: J Oldham