Second-half goals cost Rovers at Stadium:MK
Last year`s 4-2 home win against the Karl Robinson`s side seemed a distant memory as Tranmere conceded twice in the second-half to condemn them to defeat at MK Dons.
Although Rovers boss Les Parry has been criticised in the past for making limited changes to his line-up, a few eyebrows were raised when the team was announced. An expected change at the back saw Mark McChrystal make his first start for the club in the place of the injured Ian Goodison, but the surprises started in midfield. A left-back by trade, Zoumana Bakayogo started on the left side of midfield in a move that pushed Dale Jennings up front and Ian Thomas-Moore take a place on the bench amidst rumours of a transfer to Rotherham. Sam Morrow and Nick Wood earned places in the squad after weeks out of the frame.
Despite beating the Dons at Prenton Park earlier on in the season, the throwing away of three points against Walsall last Saturday and injuries to key players didn`t exactly aid their preparation for the trip to Stadium: MK. The Whites started the first 10 minutes camped in their own-half but the home side`s reluctance to push forward without being on the counter hampered their early progress.
Rover`s keeper Tony Warner caught a cross to end MK Dons first attack of the game, with the veteran blocking another ball into the box shortly after.
Lewis Guy tempted Tranmere`s Michael Kay into giving aware a free-kick on the edge of the area, only for Jabo Ibehre to send an overhead-kick over the bar when the ball was drifted in after the initial block.
John Welsh earned a booking for sliding in on a player looking to break, with Dons` Danny Woodards also being placed in the book moments later for a foul on Jennings. Another foul by Woodards soon after saw Rovers first real attempt at threatening the MK defence with Aaron Cresswell`s floated free-kick, but no one could take advantage with the ball eventually cleared to safety.
Peter Levin had a shot easily saved by Warner on 31 minutes, but the keeper was more than happy to see Dons winger Guy`s cross zip past the Rovers six-yard box without taking a touch.
There were more nervous moments at the back soon after when Danny Powell broke into the box and rounder Warner, but the striker stalled momentarily to allow the keeper to shut down the angle and give McChrystal enough of a chance to clear the ball off the line on 33 minutes.
Guy seemed to be the main source of problems in the Whites half as the winger ghosted between both Ash Taylor and McChrystal at centre-back, needing Kay to sprint across to produce a fine sliding challenge to avert the danger as the Whites went in at half-time with the scores level.
Showings in the first-half saw Rovers putting the emphasis on not conceding rather than going ahead, but that game plan took a blow with a goal for the visitors just 15 seconds after the break. Ibehre barged his way past Taylor to play in Powell who finished past Warner 15 yards out.
Despite the setback and Rovers original defensive shape, the Whites immediately pushed forward to try and get back into the game. Enoch Showunmi couldn`t get his head onto a cross into the box from Bakayogo, and the target man almost had a clear shot on goal before the ball bounced up and ended up being hoofed into the stands by an MK boot.
Bakayogo managed to get forward to curl wide of the far post on 51 minutes, while Guy got the ball into the net soon after, only to be flagged for offside.
Joss Labadie collected the ball in the area and managed to get a shot away which was blocked as far as John Welsh who could only force David Martin into dropping down and catching the effort.
However, with the Rovers defence standing off the ever threatening figure of Ibhere the midfielder managed to lose Taylor in the box to drill a strike past Warner on 70 minutes.
Lateef Elford-Alliyu, who had been pushed back into defence for most of the game, was replaced by Thomas-Moore on 74 minutes with Bakayogo limping off for Ryan Fraughan four minutes later.
After minutes past without any real attacks at both ends, substitute Rowan Vine managed to toe poke a ball towards goal with Warner stretching to catch under his crossbar.
Fraughan gave Rovers their next chance in attack, charging forward to angle a shot that went straight at Martin. Following the attemot, Adam McGurk was brought on for a tired looking Jennings on 84 minutes.
McGurk had a shot from the edge of the area which went over the target in stoppage time which turned out to be one of the last actions of the game.
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Doumbe (Chicksen 78), MacKenzie, Gleeson, Guy (Vine 67), Woodards, Ibehre, Leven, Chadwick, Powell. Substitutes not used: Searle, Hamann, Baldock.
Tranmere: Warner, Kay, Taylor, McChrystal, Cresswell, Elford-Alliyu (Thomas-Moore 74), Labadie, Welsh, Bakayogo (Fraughan 78), Showunmi, Jennings (McGurk 84). Substitutes not used: Collister, Wood, Akins, Morrow.
Referee: Kevin Wright