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Report: MK Dons 1-0 Tranmere Rovers

Mo Eisa's goal makes it two wins from two for Graham Alexander's men...

12 August 2023

MK Dons made it back-to-back victories to start their Sky Bet League Two season courtesy of a 1-0 triumph over Tranmere Rovers at Stadium MK.

In their home league opener, Mo Eisa’s goal proved the difference for Graham Alexander’s men, who kept their visitors at pay to clinch their first clean-sheet of the campaign.

Head Coach Alexander reverted back to the starting XI which beat Wrexham 5-3 on opening day, making it two changes from the midweek Carabao Cup tie with Wycombe Wanderers – Tommy Smith and Ethan Robson replacing Brooklyn Ilunga and Ashley Hunter.

A confident start by MK Dons saw them work the first shooting chance of the game after three minutes – a 20-yard try by Jonathan Leko which flew wide of the target. Moments later, Leko was forced to leave the pitch for treatment and, while on the sidelines, he watched on as his side took the lead with their next opportunity.

The goal came from a free-kick, awarded for a trip on Daniel Harvie midway inside the Tranmere half. Alex Gilbey took the set-piece and his teasing in-swinging delivery was met by the head of EISA, who was able to glance the ball beyond the outstretched arm of Luke McGee and into the bottom corner. 1-0.

The visitors responded by having their first effort on goal but Kieron Morris’ stinging drive was parried away by Craig MacGillivray. Soon after, Alexander’s men were back inside the Tranmere penalty area with Cameron Norman, whose low cross into the six-yard area was blocked by a defender.

Eisa almost found himself in on goal again with a quarter of an hour played, pouncing on a missed defensive header, though unable to poke the ball past McGee, who made himself big and was able to get a crucial hand to the ball to intercept.

A Gilbey free-kick, in similar position to wear he assisted the opening goal, caused havoc for the Rovers defence again on 25 minutes but they were able to turn this delivery behind for a corner. From that corner, Tucker headed over from a Robson cross.

Harvie surged forward with a little less than half an hour on the clock and couldn’t resist the urge to try his luck when space opened up, 25 yards from goal. His effort, though, was blocked by a defender.

The Scot was the target of Leko’s through pass a minute later - after a neat one-two between him and Eisa on the edge of the area, Leko’s ball towards an unmarked Harvie was cut out by a defender.

Harvie was having an eventful couple of minutes, as shortly after that, he pushed forward to the far post and met a deep cross in by Gilbey. Unfortunately, with the angle tight, the defender wasn’t able to trouble the target with his header.

Tranmere offered a glimpse at their threat with seven minutes to play in the first half, though Harvey Saunders’ long-range effort was never troubling MacGillivray, who watched the forward’s effort sail over his crossbar.

Five minutes of stoppage time were added at the end of the first half and in the second of those, Norman and Harvie went close to connecting but the former’s cross was just a little too high for the latter coming in at the far post.

Two minutes later, Norman teed up Robson on the edge of the D. The MK Dons number 17 took a touch to create space for a shot but his low effort was still blocked by a Tranmere man. Leko couldn’t pick up the loose ball.

Tranmere made a triple change at the break and started brightly with their new additions Tucker was forced into a meaty challenge to prevent Saunders from being able to test MacGillivray. The Dons then dealt with the resulting corner.

In response, Leko managed to find room for a cross into the Rovers box but the ball in was a little behind both Eisa and Robson. The end-to-end nature of the early second-half proceedings continued for several minutes, with Tranmere the next to threaten – Tommy Smith in the way of a strike from Tom Davies, before Jordan Turnbull headed over from a corner.

On 55 minutes, Norman swung in a cross which was, again, targeted for Harvie, though a Rovers defender did well to prevent the MK Dons man from getting a head to it. At the opposite end, Harvie did enough to deny Saunders, who was looking to meet Luke Norris’ flick-on at the far post.

Tranmere had a terrific opportunity to level the scores with 63 minutes played but substitute Connor Jennings failed to hit the target with his header, despite his positioning in the centre of the penalty area, 10 yards from goal. Alexander went to his bench moments later, replacing Leko with Ashley Hunter in attack.

The threat from the visiting side continued and Smith did well to keep Taylor from troubling MacGillivray following a deep cross in from the left. MacGillivray was forced into action from another cross soon after – this one he got up well to and claimed.

A stunning sliding block from Smith, inside his own penalty area, stopped another attempt on goal from Rovers. The Dons then had the woodwork to thank for keeping their lead intact as Norris’ close-range effort on 74 minutes crashed against the crossbar. A follow-up header then bounced just wide as Stadium MK held its collective breath.

With 10 minutes to play, MacGillivray produced an excellent save to divert Norris’ powerful effort wide of his post. The Dons were able to counter from the resulting corner, but Eisa saw his left-footed shot saved by the feet of McGee.

That was Eisa’s final involvement as he was replaced by Phoenix Scholtz, who came on for his home league debut. He was deployed in advanced position, combining with Hunter to provide some fresh legs in the attacking third.

Six minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the 90. MacGillivray was called into action inside the first of those six minutes, though it was a comfortable save to keep out Norris’ header.

That was the closest Tranmere went to troubling the scoreline late, even despite a late corner which saw goalkeeper McGee come up from the back. The Dons held on for the clean-sheet, and more importantly, the three points, maintain their perfect start to the new league season.

MK Dons: MacGillivray, Norman, Tucker, O’Hora, Williams, Leko (Hunter 64), Gilbey, Eisa (Scholtz 85), Smith, Robson, Harvie.

Subs: Harness, Holland, Dean, Ilunga, Devoy.

Goal: Eisa (7)

Booked: Eisa, MacGillivray

Tranmere Rovers: McGee, Leake, Davies, Turnbull, Morris, Hendry, Norris, Hawkes (Jennings 46), Saunders (Taylor 59), Lewis (Dennis 46), McAlear (O’Connor 46).

Subs: Murphy, Walker, Yarney.

Booked: Davies

Referee: S Gill

Attendance: 5,831 (819 away)

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