MK Dons booked their place in the second round of the Capital One Cup thanks to a 2-1 win over local rivals Northampton Town at Sixfields Stadium.
Ben Reeves and Jason Banton netted their first goals for the Dons as the men from MK1 controlled large periods of the match in Northamptonshire. However, a nervy finish followed when Roy O’Donovan fired home with 13 minutes remaining.
Northampton finished strongly with shots from O’Donovan and Ishmel Demontagnac diverted and David Mayo drilling a shot inches wide in the closing minutes. In the end, the Dons held firm to see out what had been an entertaining match against their rivals from the neighbouring county.
Karl Robinson sent a revamped side to Sixfields with six changes to the side which drew at Shrewsbury at the weekend. Ian McLoughlin, Jon Otsemobor, Tom Flanagan, Patrick Bamford, George Baldock and Reeves were all named in the starting XI.
The change was not only in personnel as Otsemobor moved into the centre of defence alongside Flanagan with Williams switching to left-back.
It was a young Dons side but a hungry one too which helped create a fast and frantic start at Northampton as both teams burst out of the blocks.
The Dons were the first to register the first real effort of note in the sixth minute when Jason Banton fired a curling shot which only the fingertips of Matt Duke could tip over the bar. Moments later the Cobblers goalie was back in action when Bamford was found inside the six-yard box only for Duke to scramble across his line and turn the forward’s volley away.
There were a few early half-scares for the Dons at the opposite end of the pitch when McLoughlin was caught out of his area but managed to get his boot on the looping ball to force a throw-in and allow the goalkeeper to recover his composure while Williams was turned inside out by Gary Deegan, but the end product failed to test McLoughlin.
The end-to-end play was relentless and when some quick passing created a route through to goal for Reeves who collected a pass from Bamford on the right and turned a long-range right-footed effort which clipped the bottom of the post and left Duke collecting the ball from the back of the net.
It was a deserved lead for the visitors who, up to that point, had carved out the better opportunities and had more joy with possession against their local rivals.
As the first half progressed the Dons grew in stature and tightened their stranglehold on proceedings. They could have doubled their lead as the half-hour mark approached when Williams snatched a shot from inside the six-yard box but was denied by a string block from Duke while Alli latched on to the follow-up, only to blaze over the bar.
The closest the Cobblers had come to an equaliser was in the 34th minute when Roy O’Donovan spotted McLoughlin creeping off his line, so he opted for an ambitious lob from distance and saw his shot drop onto the roof of the net.
There was some controversy at the other end of the pitch just minutes later when Alli went down under a challenge in the area and Matt Heath showed his displeasure at the midfielder’s fall to the floor which sparked a mêlée until referee Christopher Sarginson calmed matters down.
As half-time approached the hosts had their best spell of possession with O’Donovan testing McLoughlin from the left of the area before Williams managed to clear under pressure from JJ Hooper.
The heat of a derby began to filter into the match with the Dons’ 17-year-old midfielder at the centre of the action as he was swiped down en route through midfield, which brought uproar of different kinds from both sets of supporters and saw Heath cautioned for the foul.
The Dons’ dominance continued after the break with Bamford and Banton both denied by fine stops from Duke, who had been in excellent form for the hosts.
The former Bradford keeper could not keep the Dons quiet for long though and when Alli’s shot from a corner was parried by the 36-year-old his team-mates failed to clear the box and Banton was given the chance to turn in a powerful shot at the near post to double the lead.
Northampton tried to respond with Hooper inches away from connecting with O’Donovan’s cross. Had the duo linked-up correctly the hosts would have reduced the deficit which was a spark of hope the Cobblers needed to get back into the match.
The Cobblers defence though were soon back on their toes when an excellent mazy run from Baldock caught their backline cold, yet Lee Collins managed to get his body in the way to block the midfielder’s toe-poked effort.
With 15 minutes on the clock Cobblers were presented with a golden chance to get back into proceedings when McLoughlin made a mistake and passed the ball directly to Ivan Toney. The Dublin-born stopper managed to make amends with a good block before Flanagan cleared from the feet of O’Donovan to null the threat.
Northampton, though, had some momentum behind them and O’Donovan, who had been influential throughout for the hosts, went on a great run as he cut inside on his right foot and drilled his shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-1.
It set the closing stages up perfectly as Cobblers piled on pressure and saw a header from Lee Collins fall agonisingly wide as the Dons caught their breath. The hosts were determined to take the game to extra-time with O’Donovan and Ishmel Demontagnac both having close-range shots blocked by Flanagan and Hodson respectively.
The Dons were left with their hearts in the mouths in the 85th minute when David Mayo’s break through midfield opened up acres of space for him but his powerful strike fizzed just wide of McLoughlin’s post.
For all the pressure Robinson’s men had faced in the late stages, they could have finished with a 3-1 scoreline had Duke not pulled off yet another save this time to deny Brendan Galloway from Reeves’ corner.
The Dons now go into the hat for the second round and will find out their opponents at 12.30pm on Thursday when the draw is made live on Sky Sports News.
Northampton Town: Duke, Amankwaah (Demontagnac 71), Widdowson, Heath, Collins, Tozer, Deegan, Emerton (Moyo 85), Morris (c), O'Donovan, Hooper (Toney 74).
Subs not used: Snedker, Artell, Dias.
Booked: Heath, Deegan, O’Donovan
Goal: O’Donovan 77
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Hodson, Otsemobor, Flanagan, Williams; Gleeson, Reeves; Baldock, Alli (Chadwick 62), Banton (Galloway 80); Bamford (McLeod 69)
Subs not used: Martin, Smith, McLeod, Kay.
Goals: Reeves 13, Banton 54
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
Attendance: 3, 486 (1,138 away)