MK Dons came from behind to beat Forest Green Rovers 2-1 at the Bolt New Lawn and move out of the bottom four in the Sky Bet League One table.
Myles Peart-Harris put Forest Green ahead on the half-hour mark but the Dons levelled the scores before half-time when Mo Eisa slotted past Ross Doohan from debutant Jonathan Leko’s cross.
Eisa completed the turnaround with his second five minutes after the re-start and Mark Jackson’s side held on after that to secure a vital three points and move up four places in the table.
Jonathan Leko was handed his MK Dons debut as Mark Jackson made four changes to his starting XI. Zak Jules, Bradley Johnson and Will Grigg were the other three players who came in to the team while there was a place on the bench for new signing Max Dean.
The bobbly surface made for a scrappy start to the contest, with neither side able to establish any control early on.
Jackson’s Dons did have a glimpse at a goal-scoring opportunity with nine minutes played but, after winning possession deep in the Forest Green half, Grigg wasn’t able to get clear of his marker and get a shot away.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Jonathan Leko swung a ball into the area which appeared to strike the arm of Jamie Robson but referee Anthony Backhouse waved away protests for a penalty.
The Dons survived the game’s first corner, which went the way of the home side just before the half-hour mark. The hosts, though, took the lead with their next attack – a long ball over the top which was eventually scrambled into the net by PEART-HARRIS. 1-0.
In response, Jackson’s team earned their first corner, which was quickly followed by a second. That second corner was cleared only as far as Daniel Harvie, who had a low shot blocked on its way through to Ross Doohan’s goal.
Johnson then sent a pass into the area for Grigg but he wasn’t able to bring the ball under control despite his best efforts. Later, the MK Dons number teed up Leko but, despite fooling two defenders with a neat turn, wasn’t able to fashion a shot.
On 42 minutes, Harvie delivered a dangerous in-swinging cross which Doohan was just about able to deal with on his goalline. However, Forest Green weren’t able to deal with Leko’s ball in moments later, as the Dons drew level before half-time.
The January signing sent his cross over to the far post, where EISA did brilliantly to gain control. He then kept his composure from the tightest of angles to finish past Doohan into the bottom right corner. 1-1.
Eisa’s contribution almost extended to an assist in the final minute of the 45 but Grigg, well-placed in the area but sandwiched between two defenders, wasn’t able to get his head to the in-swinging delivery.
Both teams returned for the second half unchanged, with the Dons keen to build on their positive end to the first period.
They did just that six minutes after the re-start as EISA found the net again to put his team in front. The MK Dons number 10 latched onto McEachran’s perfectly-weighted through ball and then beat Doohan with an excellent first-time finish. 1-2.
Eisa almost had a third on 58 minutes but wasn’t able to find the target from inside the area, after being picked out at the by-line by Devoy, who sprung the offside trap down the left flank.
At the other end, Tucker was alert to read a ball into the box and prevent substitute Josh March from gaining possession. Head Coach Jackson then went to his bench for the first time, introducing Conor Grant and Matt Smith in place of Leko and McEachran.
Smith was involved right away, sliding a ball through to Grigg, who could only find the side netting with his left-footed strike at a tight angle. That was the striker’s final real involvement as he was withdrawn for Henry Lawrence at the 72-minute mark.
Moments after the stoppage, Cumming was called into action to deny Hendry, diving down to his right to keep the midfielder’s zipping strike out. He then watched as a Bakayoko header looped over his crossbar and landed on the roof of his net.
Max Dean was Jackson’s final substitution, brought on for the final three minutes, plus stoppages, in place of Eisa. Nine minutes of stoppage time were awarded and in the second of those, a March cross was diverted just wide by Stevens.
That was the closest Forest Green came to a late heartbreaker as Jackson’s Dons did their job defensively to secure all three points. A vital result ahead of back-to-back home games next week.
MK Dons: Cumming, Watson, Tucker, McEachran (Smith 63), Grigg (Lawrence 72), Eisa (Dean 88), Leko (Grant 63), Johnson, Harvie, Devoy, Jules.
Subs: Ravizzoli, Barry, Burns.
Goal: Eisa 43, 51
Booked: Johnson, McEachran, Cumming, Grant
Forest Green Rovers: Doohan, O’Keeffe, McGeouch (Hendry 59), Casey, Stevenson, Garrick (Godwin-Malife 59), Robson, McAllister (March 59), Bakayoko, Cooper, Peart-Harris (Stevens 82)
Subs: Thomas, Bernard, Cargill.
Goal: Peart-Harris 30
Booked: Bakayoko, Peart-Harris
Referee: A Backhouse
Attendance: 2,919 (527 away).