Jabo Ibehre made a triumphant return to stadiummk with a second-half double, as MK Dons came from behind to book a second round place in the Carling Cup.
Ibehre, making his first competitive start at MK1 in 11 months, was the spearhead of a Dons fight-back against determined Dagenham, putting a forgettable first season in the New City behind him to kick off his second with a considerable bang. With his side trailing to Damien McCrory's excellent first-half free-kick and in need of some inspiration, Ibehre and strike partner Jermaine Easter came up with the goods, leading the way in a much-improved second-half performance.
After having his own effort controversially disallowed six minutes after the break, Easter brilliantly set up Ibehre for the equaliser on 56 minutes. And Ibehre capped a memorable personal performance with the winner 11 minutes from time - seizing on Scott Doe's defensive error to beat Tony Roberts in the Dagenham goal and book the Dons' place in Wednesday's second round draw. It was a night of personal triumph for the former Walsall and Leyton Orient striker, a popular choice for man of the match among supporters that have taken him to their hearts.
Having spent much of last season out on loan with Southend and Stockport, he has returned to the Dons setup revitalised under Robinson and looks a mighty weapon in an impressive Dons arsenal. His eagerness to impress was obvious from the outset, linking attacks with ox-like strength and a sure-footed touch in a Dons side that struggled for early rhythm. Their cause was not aided on 13 minutes when Peter Leven, returning to the side from suspension, was harshly whistled for a perfectly-timed sliding tackle on Jon Nurse.
McCrory took full advantage, whipping his 25-yard effort over the wall and inside David Martin's left-hand post. Lacking the tempo and pace their pre and early-season play has shown, the Dons toiled during the first half as passes went astray and Dagenham, led by the impressive defensive combination of Doe and Mark Arber, revelled in their destructive role.
Leven and Mark Carrington showed the best of intentions, sweeping balls across the field to change the angle of attack, but assaults on Dagenham territory failed to ignite. Angelo Balanta beats Abu Ogogo to deliver a cross. &nbsp; Neither Easter nor Ibehre could make decisive contact with respective Angelo Balanta crosses before the break and the loss of debutant Pelé in central defence to a thigh injury hardly helped the cause. But the break gave Robinson the chance to get his point across and his side emerged with renewed energy.
Easter thought he'd levelled matters with a fine header from an excellent Balanta cross, but saw his celebrations cut short by referee Gavin Ward, who had whistled for the Welshman's shove on Arber. Incensed by the perceived injustice, the hosts, and Easter in particular, took it up a notch. With their next meaningful attack, the powerhouse striker turned in possession before racing at the Dagenham defence and reversing perfectly for Ibehre to find the corner via the body of Roberts.
With the momentum behind them, Robinson's side went for the kill - Ibehre just failing to reach a fizzing right-wing cross from the uncontainable Easter and then beaten by Roberts to a hanging cross from substitute Luke Chadwick. Dagenham threatened to upset the odds again as Josh Scott headed wastefully wide from an excellent Darren Currie cross and then substitute Peter Gain failing to find the target after mix-up between Carrington and Martin on the edge of their own box. But Ibehre's hard work paid dividends moments later as he gainfully gave chase to Chadwick's hopeful ball into the Dagenham box.
In truth, Doe and McCrory should have dealt with the situation, both reaching the scene before Ibehre with time to clear. But Doe's attempted back-pass to Roberts was indecisive and Ibehre stole in to sweep emphatically into the net. Substitute Sam Baldock, introduced to give the Dons an extra attacking dimension shortly before Ibehre's second, nearly made the game safe with a low, angled shot that zipped wide six minutes from time.
But the night would belong to Ibehre, who milked the applause of the Cowshed at the final whistle, very much the hero of the hour.
MK Dons (4-4-2): Martin; Howell (S. Baldock 76), Woodards, Pelé (Chicksen 31), Lewington (c); Guy (Chadwick 54), Carrington, Leven, Balanta; Ibehre, Easter.
Subs not used: Searle, G. Baldock, Flanagan, Powell.
Dagenham & Redbridge (4-4-2): Roberts; Ogogo, Doe, Arber, McCrory; Nurse, Lewis, Vincelot, Currie (Gain 70); Scott (Scannell 70), Benson (Walsh 70).
Subs not used: Lewington, Antwi, Montgomery, Gwillim.
Attendance: 3,520 (238 away)
Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey)