MK Dons secured their place in the Second Round Proper of The FA Cup with Budweiser with a comfortable 4-1 victory over FC Halifax Town on Saturday afternoon.
Two goals from Izale McLeod along with a penalty from Shaun Williams and a first professional goal from 17-year-old Brendan Galloway were enough for Karl Robinson's men, who recorded back-to-back victories for only the second time this season to book their spot in tomorrow's afternoon's draw.
Karl Robinson made three changes to his side for the visit of FC Halifax Town, with midfielder Stephen Gleeson a surprise name included in a very strong MK Dons starting XI. Gleeson had been out of action for three weeks with a calf injury but was deemed fit enough to partner Darren Potter in the centre of midfield on Saturday afternoon.
There was also a rare start for striker McLeod up-front, with the Club’s all-time leading goalscorer playing just ahead of the side’s current top marksmen Patrick Bamford in a dangerous-looking Dons attack.
And it was the two forwards who combined to create the game’s first chance six minutes in. McLeod climbed well to nod Powell’s chip onto Bamford, but the Chelsea man couldn’t get any power behind his effort and FC Halifax Town ‘keeper Matt Glennon made a comfortable save.
Williams, who told the media last week that he was looking to score more goals from open play, then saw a fierce shot from distance deflected wide, before the Irishman nearly turned provider when he laid on perfectly weighted pass to Bamford, who could placed his effort wide of Glennon’s right-hand upright.
Ian McLoughlin, the Dons’ only other change from last weekend, didn’t see much of the ball in the opening half an hour but did have to race off his line to put prevent Ryan Toulson from threatening his goal after a direct run down the right on 26 minutes. Toulson was later substituted after picking up an injury during the incident.
Despite their fast start, Robinson’s men didn’t have another clear cut chance until ten minutes before half-time when McLeod looped a header over the bar from Jason Banton’s in-swinging cross.
McLeod came into the game in search of his first goal since his delightful chip away at Sunderland in August and on 38 minutes the forward finally found that elusive strike – and in some style too.
After being allowed acres of space 25-yards from goal, McLeod moved the ball onto his left-foot and curled an unstoppable strike past Glennon and into the top corner to give the Dons a deserved lead.
FC Halifax Town, instead of letting their heads drop, immediately went in search of an equaliser and before the half-time whistle they had two glorious chances to do just that. Firstly, Dan Gardner forced a strong save out of McLoughlin after pouncing on a Lee Hodson mistake before Paul Marshall had his rebound deflected inches wide.
In between those two FC Halifax Town chances, the Dons did see a Williams low shot tipped round the post but they were forced to make do with their slender one-goal advantage at the interval.
Robinson brought on young George Baldock at half-time in place of Banton but it was Baldock’s opposite number Daniel Powell who earned the Dons the chance to extend their lead seven minutes into the second half.
Powell, twisting and turning down the left, was tripped in the area by Shayman defender Marc Roberts and penalty-taking specialist Williams stepped up confidently to send ‘keeper Glennon the wrong way from the spot and double the hosts advantage.
Gleeson went close to a third soon after with a dipping volley which was well tipped over by the Glennon before FC Halifax Town’s Lee Gregory was denied by the palms of McLoughlin when one-on-one.
The Skrill Premier side were refusing to let the game go despite the Dons’ strong lead and had Gardner been able to connect cleanly with Matty Pearson’s cross on 60 minutes, they could have pulled a goal back.
Lewington was then called upon to deny Lois Maynard a clear shot on goal with a well-timed sliding tackle while referee Darren Bond had to wave away strong penalty appeals following a tackle by Daniel Powell in the area.
However on 68 minutes, the Dons all but secured their place in the Second Round courtesy of some dazzling work from Baldock down the right and a second goal of the game from McLeod.
The substitute, who looked lively throughout the second half, showed his marker a clean set of heels on the edge of the area before his fierce left-footed strike was parried straight into the path of McLeod, who couldn’t miss from inside the six-yard box.
With the game all-but wrapped up Robinson introduced academy duo Galloway and Giorgio Rasulo to the field of play but any hopes of an easy finish were banished when the visitors reduced the deficit with 13 minutes left to play.
FC Halifax Town’s Gregory, the third-highest goalscorer in the Skrill Premier so far this season, was able to beat McLoughlin to a through-ball deep inside the box and flick a shot past him into the bottom corner.
However, two minutes into stoppage time the Dons restored their three-goal advantage and sealed the win courtesy of 17-year-old Galloway, who stole the show with a cool late finish.
The second-year scholar won the ball deep in FC Halifax Town territory before rounding Glennon and slotting home his first professional goal in front of the Cowshed.
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): McLoughlin; Hodson, Spence, Williams, Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson (Galloway 71); Powell, Bamford, Banton (Baldock 46); McLeod (Rasulo 71).
Subs not used: Burns (GK), Otsemobor, Flanagan, Smith.
Goals: McLeod 39, 70; Williams (pen) 53, Galloway 90
Sent off: None
FC Halifax Town: Glennon, Toulson (Worthington 26), McManus, Pearson, Lowe (c), Gardner (Love 74), Gregory, Roberts, Marshall, Maynard (Wilson 68), Ainge.
Subs not used: Senior (GK), McReady, Holsgrove, Johnson.
Booked: Roberts, Worthington
Sent off: None
Attendance: 4,049 (550 away)
Half-Time Goal-Don Treble results: 11-04-06-08