MK Dons secured their place in the next stage of the Checkatrade Trophy courtesy of a 1-0 win at Peterborough United.
Kieran Agard’s goal five minutes before the break proved to be the difference as Karl Robinson’s men deservedly came out on top at the ABAX Stadium.
The triumph, which would have been more comfortable had second-half chances been taken, moved the men from MK1 on to five points from two outings in Group F after a penalty shoot-out success on day one over Barnet.
Dean Bowditch captained a much-changed Dons side for the clash in Cambridgeshire, which included a first start for centre-back Jack Hendry.
Hendry was immediately involved as he made a good tackle before a defensive colleague denied George Moncur inside the Dons’ box.
Karl Robinson’s men hit back with two efforts from Brandon Thomas-Asante – the first of which had to be blocked well with it heading goalwards.
Lee Nicholls was twice called into action either side of an off-target Ben Reeves effort to comfortably deny Marcus Maddison and Gwion Edwards.
Opposition keeper Luke McGee was also involved as the game ticked towards the 20-minute mark, gathering Dean Bowditch’s long-range drive after Kieran Agard had seen a shot blocked a minute earlier.
There was some good football on show as the game began to open up midway through the first half, the last of which came courtesy of a clever pass from Ben Reeves but George B Williams’ cross was blocked.
Tireless work from Thomas-Asante down the left-hand side created a chance on 28 minutes for Reeves, who forced a good stop from McGee 15 yards out.
Peterborough were still posing a threat of their own and full-backs Ben Tilney and GB Williams had to be alert in quick succession to deal with dangerous crosses, prior to Edwards heading wide from a left-wing corner.
But it was the men from MK1 who were looking the more likely to break the deadlock and Agard sent a shot narrowly wide, shortly after Nicholls had gathered a long-range strike from Moncur.
Agard went one better on 40 minutes as he opened the scoring with a cool finish from 12 yards after Thomas-Asante had driven forward and fed Carruthers, who found the Dons’ striker with a perfect cut-back.
There was an opportunity for Agard to double his tally and the Dons’ lead in the opening minute of the second period but he fired Bowditch’s cross off target from 15 yards.
Reeves went extremely close to making it 2-0 three minutes later as he curled a 25-yard effort on to the roof of the net – there was no doubt who was on top.
McGee ensured it remained 1-0 with a strong save close to his body to deny Thomas-Asante who, shortly afterwards, improvised to send an effort goalwards but it looped just over the bar after a well-worked corner involving Carruthers and Agard.
The Tottenham Hotspur loanee then got down well to his right to thwart Bowditch as he fired an effort towards the bottom left-hand corner on 57 minutes.
After being on the back foot for a sustained period, Grant McCann’s men began to make their way back into the game with 25 minutes remaining, but that was leaving gaps and Agard almost exploited with a flick goalwards but it was saved by McGee.
Kabongo Tshimanga and Giorgio Rasulo were introduced as Robinson continued to give young professionals a chance to shine whilst also keeping his first-teamers fresh for Sunday.
The latter should have made it 2-0 on 75 minutes but he shot straight at McGee from 15 yards after Tilney had initially made room for a shot with some fancy footwork.
For all their pressure, the Dons had a lucky escape on 80 minutes when Ryan Tafazolli headed a corner wide of the target when well placed.
Carruthers, now wearing the captain’s armband, forced a smart save from McGee as the Dons looked to put the game to bed while, at the other end, Peterborough substitute Tom Nichols fired into the side-netting and then headed wide.
Tshimanga almost added a second in the final minutes but, after racing down the right, he fired narrowly wide of the far post.
Starting XI: Nicholls; GB Williams, Hendry, Downing, Tilney; Upson, Carruthers; Bowditch (c) (Colclough 76), Reeves (Rasulo 70), Thomas-Asante; Agard (Tshimanga 66).
Unused subs: Burns, Walsh, Jackson, Brittain.
Goal: Agard (40).
Bookings: Rasulo, Carruthers.
Attendance: 1,793 (138 Dons fans).