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Report: Forest Green Rovers 1-2 MK Dons

Martin's late goal sends MK Dons second...

30 March 2019

Match Reports

Report: Forest Green Rovers 1-2 MK Dons

Martin's late goal sends MK Dons second...

30 March 2019

Russell Martin’s first goal for the Club earned MK Dons a crucial 2-1 victory over Forest Green Rovers at the New Lawn.

Kieran Agard had given the Dons a first-half lead with his 21st strike of the campaign but former Don George Williams levelled the scoreline on 62 minutes.

It looked as though Paul Tisdale’s men were to be frustrated in Gloucestershire but, with three minutes to play, Martin converted from a corner to earn the Dons a crucial three points - three points which sees them climb to second in the Sky Bet League Two table.

Boss Tisdale was forced into one change due to the injury sustained by Alex Gilbey last weekend at Stadium MK. Conor McGrandles was his replacement, slotting into the midfield three alongside Jordan Houghton and Ryan Harley.

The Dons showed their attacking intent early on, with two balls sent into the box inside the opening two minutes. Both were delivered by Jordan Houghton - the former was collected by Lewis Ward ahead of Agard and the latter was left, by the goalkeeper, to run out for a goal kick.

Agard was again chasing a long pass on three minutes, this time from Dean Lewington, but he couldn’t get to it before Ward. The striker did get hold of a ball inside the area shorlty after, however his eventual shot was blocked by a Rovers defender.

Forest Green offered their first threat on 10 minutes from a Liam Shepard cross. Christian Doidge met the ball at the near post but poked wide. Shortly after, Joseph Mills delivered from the opposite flank but Martin headed away.

Agard found himself behind the Rovers backline once again in the 14th minute, from Callum Brittain’s neat chip. He made contact with his head but Ward was able to watch the looping effort into his arms.

On 25 minutes, a ball into the area from Lewington caused some panic in the Rovers penalty area. Eventually, they scrambled it behind for a corner. From Lewington’s delivery, Agard saw a shot saved on the line by Ward after Martin’s goal-bound try was blocked.

The Dons had a succession of corners but from the latter of those, Rovers countered. George Williams collected the ball on the half-way line and played in Mills, who sent his left-footed shot into the side netting.

Tisdale’s side then had a chance to break the deadlock through David Wheeler, whose half-volley flew wide of the far post. Rovers striker Christian Doidge then forced a save out of Lee Nicholls at the other end of the pitch - the Dons’ number 1 diving to his right to palm the effort wide.

With 10 minutes left to play in the half, the Dons had penalty appeals waved away by Christopher Sarginson after Agard appeared to be nudged over inside the box while attempting to latch onto a McGrandles cross.

MK Dons continued to feel aggrieved when Sarginson failed to spot a foul on McGrandles in the build-up to a chance for Junior Mondal - fortunately for them, Nicholls was able to keep out the shot at his near post.

They weren’t feeling annoyed for too long, however, as a minute later they took the lead. Wheeler showed great tenacity to chase down Gavin Gunning and dispossess the Rovers defender on the right corner of the pitch. He then had the calmness to thread a pass into an unmarked Agard who, inside the area, took a touch and slotted past Ward. 0-1.

Rovers went close to threatening an equaliser three minutes before half-time but McGrandles was in the right place at the right time to intercept Mills’ cross. Houghton then did well to deny Shepard after he had burst into the box - that led to a corner, from which Doidge headed wide.

The Dons maintained their attacking intent too and a driving run from Wheeler looked to have brought a penalty but Sarginson didn’t spot a handball. Hesketh then earned his side a free-kick in stoppage time - McGrandles, though, sent it just over.

The Scotsman was heavily involved in the Dons' first chance of the second half. After winning the the ball on the edge his own area, McGrandles laid it on for Wheeler, who returned the pass after a drive deep into Rovers territory. Despite having Agard for company, he decided to go for goal alone, however he couldn’t find the finish.

Agard, himself, was presented with an opportunity in the 51st minute after being played in by Hesketh down the left. The Dons number 14 moved into the area and away from the Forest Green defenders, but just dragged his left-footed shot wide of the post.

The Dons then survived two corners on 54 minutes before heading back up the field for another attack, which resulted in Hesketh seeing a shot deflect wide of the target from 20-yards out.

Forest Green then earned themselves a free-kick, which Nicholls was forced to punch away inside a crowded penalty area, but it was with their next attack that Rovers equalised. Williams, who progressed through the youth ranks at Stadium MK, was the man on target, meeting a deep cross from the right and powering a header past Nicholls. 1-1.

Looking to respond and restore the Dons’ advantage, Hesketh sent a volley wide of the target from the edge of the D. At the other end, Carl Winchester dragged a low right-footed shot wide.

On 71 minutes, Tisdale introduced Chuks Aneke off the bench in place of Wheeler. Seconds after his introduction, the Dons had the ball in the net but Agard’s effort was chalked off for offside.

Aneke was involved for the first time a minute later, bringing down Lewington’s ball and setting it into the path of Harley, whose first-time effort fizzed into the arms of a diving Ward.

Two more changes then followed from Tisdale, who brought on Ousseynou Cisse and Robbie Simpson with 12 minutes to play.

With 82 minutes on the clock, McGrandles missed a glorious opportunity to put his side ahead for a second time as he could only find the side netting with the goal at his mercy.

Aneke then came within an inch of poking home from a McGrandles free-kick but was denied by a save from Ward. From the resulting corner, the Dons netted their winner.

McGrandles delivered from the left and while they couldn’t create a goalscoring chance from the original cross, Walsh kept play alive at the far post. He found Hesketh, who got away from his man and sent a teasing ball back into the mix. Aneke went for it, attracting two defenders with him - all of whom missed their headers. That saw the ball land at the feet of Martin, who took a touch and then slid home a timely first goal for the Club. 1-2.

Agard had an opportunity to seal the points straight from kick-off but he couldn’t find the far corner while Aneke also went close in the dying moments.

It wouldn’t matter, however, as the Dons saw out the contest to secure all three points and move up one place to second in the table. What a win.

Starting XI: Nicholls; Brittain, Martin, Walsh, Lewington (c); McGrandles, Houghton (Simpson 78), Harley (Cisse 78); Wheeler (Aneke 71), Agard, Hesketh.

Unused subs: Moore, Watson, D’Ath, Walker.

Goals: Agard (37), Martin (87)

Booked: Martin, McGrandles

Referee: C Sarginson

Attendance: 3,220 (601 away)

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