MK Dons will be looking to extend their gap over the bottom four when they take on title-chasing Blackburn Rovers at Stadium MK this afternoon.
Having won three of their last four matches, Dan Micciche’s men have moved out of the relegation zone in Sky Bet League One and are now two points clear of 21st-placed Oldham Athletic. It is the first time they have been above the red line since mid-January.
Should Micciche’s side come out on top today they could climb above 18th-placed Walsall and move further clear of the bottom four. They would also extend their unbeaten run to five league games which would be their longest undefeated run of the season.
If the Dons are to triumph they will need to maintain their recent goalscoring form, which has seen them net seven time in their last four fixtures having scored only seven goals in the preceding 13 games. Chuks Aneke has contributed to five of those seven – scoring three of them and providing the assists for two others.
Kick-off is at 3pm.
In the Dons’ way of another crucial home victory are a Blackburn Rovers side who sit second in Sky Bet League One, one point behind leaders Wigan Athletic.
Rovers won seven of their last eight matches and have scored a whopping 18 goals during that stretch, while conceding on only six occasions. They have lost just one league encounter since mid-October.
Adam Armstrong is a player to watch having netted six times in his last eight appearances but he is just one of a number of attacking options at Tony Mowbray’s disposal along with Bradley Dack and Danny Graham, who have scored 16 and 12 league goals respectively this campaign.
The Dons made it three wins from four courtesy of a dramatic 2-1 victory at Gillingham last Thursday evening.
Micciche’s side took the lead through Chuks Aneke’s 10th goal of the season but were pegged back before half-time when Navid Nasseri headed in from Bradley Garmston’s deep cross.
In the second half, Callum Brittain was denied a clear penalty following a foul by Connor Ogilvie while Gills defender Max Ehmer escaped a red card despite denying Aneke a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Those decisions wouldn’t prove to be the talking, however, as with five minutes remaining, George Williams slid in to convert from Ed Upson’s pass – securing the Dons a vital three points on the road.
Blackburn were also in action on Thursday as they moved top of the Sky Bet League One, albeit temporarily, courtesy of a 2-0 win at home to Bradford City.
Rovers were kept at bay for over an hour despite hitting the crossbar on two occasions through Marcus Antonsson and Bradley Dack.
It was Dack who eventually broke the deadlock on 68 minutes when he latched onto Corry Evans' through ball and comfortably beat Doyle one-on-one.
Ten minutes later, substitute Craig Conway found the net and secured the points after Dack's initial shot fell into his path.
The Dons will be without Elliott Ward, who is forced to miss out against his parent club due to the terms of his loan deal. The centre-back has impressed since arriving from Rovers back in January.
Ward is the Dons’ only new absentee although boss Micciche is likely to remain without the services of Osman Sow, Marcus Tavernier and Josh Tymon for another game, as the trio remain sidelined through injury.
Callum Brittain will be pushing for a start while the returning Scott Golbourne and recent acquisition Nigel Reo-Coker will both want to be involved.
Blackburn are expecting to have Danny Graham and Charlie Mulgrew back available after the pair missed Thursday’s win at Bradford. Graham was sidelined with a back issue while Mulgrew was left out having played for Scotland just 48 hours prior to kick-off.
Defender Darragh Lenihan should also be involved despite being forced off against the Bantams last week but defender Ryan Nyambe and midfielder Harry Chapman are both out of this afternoon's game.
The experienced Kevin Friend will take charge of today's fixture. Friend is a Select Group Official, who has refereed 16 Premier League matches this season.
This is his first Dons appointment since April 2010, when he oversaw the 1-1 draw with Norwich City at Carrow Road – that afternoon he produced 10 yellow cards and sent off the Dons’ goalscorer, Aaron Wilbraham.
Friend was the man in the middle for Blackburn much more recently. The Leicestershire official produced just three yellow cards in their 3-2 defeat to Preston North End in December 2016.
His assistant referees this afternoon are Matthew Wilkes and Derek Eaton while the fourth official is Lee Collins.
Dons wins: 2
Dons wins at Stadium MK: 2
Last Dons win: 3-0, 17 Oct 2015 (Stadium MK)
Biggest Dons win: 3-0, 17 Oct 2015 (Stadium MK)
Draws at Stadium MK: N/A
Last draw at Stadium MK: N/A
Blackburn wins: 2
Blackburn wins at Stadium MK: 0
Last Blackburn win: 4-1, 26 Aug 2017 (Ewood Park)
Biggest Blackburn win: 4-1, 26 Aug 2017 (Ewood Park)
Chuks Aneke to score first and MK Dons to win 2-1: 66/1
Half-Time/Full-Time – Draw/MK Dons: 9/1
*All odds correct at the time of writing
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Tickets for today's clash with Blackburn Rovers are priced from £22 adults, £17 over-65s/under-21s* and £7 under-18s while under-12s go FREE with a Young Dons Membership.
Supporters can upgrade to East Centre for a £5 premium while a seat in clubRed is available for £10 more.
To book tickets click HERE, visit the Box Office/cash-only ticket booths or call 0333 200 5343. Tickets will be available to buy right up until kick-off.