17-year-old Dele Alli's first career hat-trick sees MK Dons triumph 3-1 over Notts County at Meadow Lane.
Alli struck early in the first-half before doubling his tally in the second period following some good work from Daniel Powell. Alan Sheehan then converted a penalty to set up a nervy finish but Alli showed great composure in stoppage-time to seal the win and take home the matchball.
The result sees the Dons close the gap on sixth-placed Peterborough United to just three points with the two sides set to meet at stadiummk this Saturday.
Karl Robinson was forced into making two changes to the side which beat Swindon Town on Saturday afternoon with Stephen Gleeson and Daniel Powell replacing the injured pair of Ben Reeves and Larnell Cole. Gleeson, himself, had only just recovered from a thigh problem which had kept him out since February.
County, who held promotion-chasers Leyton Orient to a goalless draw on the weekend, made a bright start and Jack Grealish forced Dons goalkeeper David Martin into diving save inside the first minute.
From the resulting corner, Hayden Mullins crashed a volley against the crossbar after his run from deep wasn’t tracked by a Dons defender.
It wasn’t the start Robinson and his team would have wanted but just a minute later they had little complaints just a minute later, after they broke the deadlock through Dele Alli.
The midfielder, starting in a more advanced role behind Izale McLeod, chased down a long ball with the lone striker and curled a shot past the outstretched left arm of Bartosz Bialkowski to give the Dons a one-goal lead inside of five minutes.
Robinson’s men could have doubled their lead just moments later but after breaking into the County box Daniel Powell’s shot was saved by Bialkowski and loanee Sanmi Odelusi wasn’t able to pounce.
Magpies forward Nathan Tyson then capped off a frantic opening six minutes with a fierce volley which he struck just wide of Martin’s right-hand upright from 25-yards.
The size of pitch at Meadow Lane, along with the hosts’ high-line, allowed McLeod a couple of early opportunities to stretch his legs and run in-behind the defence and on 11 minutes he tried his luck for the first time, producing a good save out of Bialkowski with a swerving right-footed effort.
Having watched his opposite number make a save just a few minutes earlier, Martin then did well to stop Jamal Campbell-Ryce from equalising with a smart save low down to his near post after the winger had cut in from the right.
Powell then created another decent chance for himself in the 22nd minute but after twisting and turning on the edge of the box the winger’s shot was palmed away for a corner by the impressive Bialkowski.
A cagey spell followed, with both teams struggling to string passes together on the difficult surface, until McLeod shot straight at Bialkowski after latching onto a mishap in the County defence just before half-time.
McLeod would then have the first chance of the second period, curling an effort from the corner of the box into the side netting, before Tyson tried to latch onto a through-ball, only for Martin to race out and smother.
Eventually, though, the Dons would find a deserved second goal which, although scored by Alli, was largely down to the perseverance of Powell, who was having a superb game in attack.
The winger refused to give up on possession and was able to nick the ball off the County defender before laying on a plate for Alli to tap into an unguarded net and double both his and the Dons’ tally for the evening.
Everything seemed to be going right for the Dons until the 70th minute when referee Geoff Eltringham awarded County a penalty for an apparent handball by Spence from a Jack Grealish cross.
Grealish’s ball in appeared to strike the chest of the Dons defender rather than his arm but nonetheless Alan Sheehan stepped up confidently and tucked away his shot from 12-yards to hand his side a lifeline.
The next ten minutes passed with neither side really threatening although Alli did head over from ten yards on 84 minutes after being picked out by a delightful Dean Lewington cross.
Dean Bowditch, introduced by Robinson as a 75th minute substitute, then drilled an effort wide after doing well in the middle of the park as the game entered additional time.
Just like the Oldham Athletic match two weeks ago, the Dons were forced to defend a late corner as the hosts searched for a dramatic equaliser.
But after Spence cleared, Powell countered and with a delightful crossfield ball he picked out Alli who smashed the ball past Bialkowski to seal his first career hat-trick on an unforgettable night for the teenager and the Dons.
Notts County: Bialkowski, Dumbuya, Smith, Leacock (Hollis 38), Sheehan (c), Mullins, Liddle (Fotheringham 66), Campbell-Ryce, Grealish, McGregor, Tyson.
Subs not used: Spiess (GK), Boucaud, Dixon, Waite, Murray.
Goal: Sheehan (pen) 70
Booked: Grealish, Smith
MK Dons: Martin; Baldock, Spence, Kay, Lewington (c); Gleeson, Alli; Powell, Smith, Odelusi (Bowditch 75); McLeod.
Subs not used: Burns (GK), Flanagan, Chadwick, Rasulo, Hall, Collinge.
Goals: Alli 3, 55, 90
Booked: McLeod, Alli, Smith, Baldock
Referee: G Eltringham