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Dons conclude Ireland camp with draw

13 July 2016

MK Dons concluded their stay in Ireland with a behind-closed-doors training match against Tranmere Rovers on Wednesday evening.

Karl Robinson’s side, in their third game in as many days, fought back from two early goals to lead 3-2 until an 82nd minute equaliser from the Rovers ensured the friendly finished level. Connor Furlong, George Baldock and Brandon Thomas-Asante grabbed the goals for the men from MK1.

David Martin played the first 45 minutes, after missing the opening two friendlies. Nicky Maynard, meanwhile, was rested altogether, along with Dean Bowditch who is still recovering from a knock sustained in training.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group all saw time on the pitch, with the group who featured for the last half an hour on Tuesday in action for the opening 60 minutes and vice versa for the second XI.

In an action-packed first half, Rovers struck first when winger Adam Mekki sent a stunning strike beyond Martin on 15 minutes. 0-1.

Tranmere then doubled their lead through James Norwood but Dons replied almost instantly courtesy of Furlong’s fierce 21st minute finish from the edge of the box - the first-year professional’s opening goal of pre-season. 1-2.

It didn’t take long for Robinson’s men to add a second goal and draw level in the game as just two minutes later Baldock found the net with a sublime effort which rivalled Mekhi’s opener for goal of the match. 2-2.

Although just a training game, the early stages were played at an impressive pace, much to the credit of the Dons and their opponents from Merseyside.

Ed Upson, a summer signing from Millwall, looked assured in the middle of the park, while the two players around him, Darren Potter and Samir Carruthers, also left their mark on the first half an hour.

The fifth goal of an enthralling first half arrived on the 30-minute mark and there was no surprise as to who the scorer was - second-year scholar Thomas-Asante, who latched onto Carruthers’ through pass and turned home his third goal in as many games. 3-2.

Robinson’s Dons were undoubtably the team in the driving seat as the first half drew to a close but despite a couple of teasing balls into the box they weren’t able to add to their score before the interval.

After the re-start, Martin’s replacement between the sticks, Burns, showed good reflexes to keep out Mekki at his near post before Darren Potter forced an impressive block out of one of the Tranmere defenders at the other end.

Robinson then made his 10 planned changes on the hour mark after a stoppage in play due to a foul on Thomas-Asante. Substitute Reeves took the free-kick but his curling right-footed effort was claimed well by the Rovers goalkeeper.

The 24-year-old then saw two efforts blocked, the second of which after a teasing ball-in by Dean Lewington, who had latched onto Oran Jackson’s excellent cross-field pass.

It looked as though the Dons were heading for their third success in three days but in the 82nd minute Rovers drew level and, maybe undeservedly, earned themselves a share of the spoils. 3-3.

More important than the results however, was seeing the majority of the squad total over two hours worth of match minutes during the time in Ireland - a real positive for Robinson as his side head back to the UK for their friendlies on home-soil.

Starting XI: Martin (Burns 46); Baldock (Williams 61), Downing (Kasumu 61), Jackson, Tilney (Lewington 61); Potter (Rasulo 46), Upson (Walsh 61); Thomas-Asante (Logan 61), Carruthers (Reeves 61), Furlong (Powell 61); Hitchcock (Nombe).

Subs not used: None

Goal: Furlong (21), Baldock (23), Thomas-Asante (31)

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