Mark Jackson’s first game in charge of MK Dons ended with three points at Stadium MK thanks to a 1-0 victory over Forest Green Rovers at Stadium MK.
Daniel Harvie’s second-half strike proved the difference in a tight affair, earning the Dons their second consecutive victory to-nil – a result which moves them to within a point of safety in Sky Bet League One.
Mark Jackson named his first starting XI as MK Dons Head Coach, making two changes from the Carabao Cup tie with Leicester City - Bradley Johnson and Nathan Holland both came in to the starting XI in place of Dawson Devoy and Conor Grant.
After a patient start, the Dons broke through Forest Green lines with a direct run from Holland, cutting in from the left flank. He got to the edge of the area and tried to pick out Mo Eisa but the through pass was intercepted.
A minute later, down the opposite wing, there were penalty shouts for what appeared to be a foul on Tennai Watson in the area. Referee Lewis Smith, however, was unmoved when Watson went to ground.
Forest Green threatened for the first time with five minutes played – a recycled corner which ended up with the ball in the back of the net. Fortunately for the Dons, the referee spotted the foul on Jamie Cumming prior to the ball being headed home.
On 11 minutes, former Don Baily Cargill prodded over from a corner. The Dons responded from a corner for their own, which was worked back to Daniel Harvie, whose stinging drive was deflected off target by a defender.
The resulting corner produced an opportunity for Will Grigg at the near post but his attempt was also blocked by a Forest Green man. Shortly after, Grigg latched onto a chipped through pass from Josh McEachran but could only guide his looping volley into the arms of Luke McGee.
Holland was the next to try his luck, moving in from the left wing and firing a shot towards goal, one which was also blocked. Forest Green, on the break, were then awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area and from it they forced Cumming into a terrific double save, first to keep out the initial effort from Corey O’Keeffe and then deny Cargill on the rebound.
Cumming was called into action on 23 minutes to palm away a curling effort from Oliver Casey, which was allowed to come in despite what appeared to be a foul on Zak Jules in the build-up. Cumming was the hero from the corner too, clawing one off the line from Josh Marsh before saving the rebound at point-blank range.
The Dons almost made their visitors pay but Cumming’s opposite number, McGee, brilliantly kept out Bradley Johnson’s fiercely-struck free-kick before then denying Grigg, who had got his head to Johnson’s return ball into the box – both efforts were heading in.
Johnson had another go with just over 10 minutes to play in the half but curled over from 20 yards out. He was involved, moments later, in working an opportunity for Eisa, who saw his low drive kept out by McGee, diving to his near post.
Cargill headed over from a corner five minutes later while O’Hora, too, wasn’t able to find the target when he met a corner delivered in by McEachran – the final chance of the first half.
Both sides returned for the second half unchanged, with the Dons starting the brighter of the two. They managed to send several early balls into the box, though none were able to produce a shot on target – their first of those arrived on 53 minutes from McEachran but McGee was equal to it.
The Dons were, though, able to make their strong start to the second half count, as they took the lead with 58 minutes played. It came from a McEachran corner which was cleared only as far as HARVIE, who took a touch before drilling a left-footed shot past McGee. 1-0.
Urged on by the crowd, Jackson’s men went in search of a quick second but, after Johnson’s excellent through pass, Eisa dragged his right-footed shot wide. The rebound was then cleared away before Grigg could pounce on it.
Ben Stevenson fired over from the edge of the area as Forest Green threatened an equaliser from a set-piece. March then fired into the side netting on a break forward, before O’Keeffe curled wide after the Dons had thrown several bodies in the way of various efforts following a free-kick.
Dawson Devoy and Matt Smith were both brought off the bench by Jackson, who freshened up his time for the final quarter of an hour. He had Cumming to thank with five minutes to play, for bravely diving out at the feet of substitute Mathew Stevens and preventing him connecting with a low cross at the near post.
Six minutes of added time were awarded at the end of the 90 and the Dons were forced to spend most of those inside their own half. But, they held them for a second straight clean sheet and, most importantly, another league victory – the perfect way to begin the Jackson era.
MK Dons: Cumming, Watson, Tucker, O’Hora, McEachran (Devoy 64) Grigg (Smith 73), Eisa, Holland, Johnson, Harvie (Barry 87), Jules
Subs: Ravizzoli, Robson, Grant, Lawrence.
Goal: Harvie 59
Booked: O’Hora, McEachran, Tucker, Johnson
Forest Green Rovers: McGee, O’Keeffe (Godwin-Malife 77), Bernard (Fiabema 78), McGeouch (Stevens 78), Casey, Cargill, Stevenson, Boyes, Matt (Little 66), Peart-Harris, March
Subs: Thomas, Hendry, Bunker
Booked: Little, Casey
Referee: L Smith
Attendance: 6,516 (269 away)