Conor McGrandles’ early strike and a second-half brace from Sam Nombe saw MK Dons pick up three points in their Leasing.com Trophy opener with Stevenage.
McGrandles fired the Dons ahead with a low drive before Nombe added two from one-on-one positions in the second half, as Paul Tisdale’s mean saw off Stevenage 3-0 at the Lamex Stadium.
Brennan Dickenson was handed his first MK Dons start as one of eight changes made by boss Tisdale. Nombe and David Kasumu also came in to the XI while there were places on the bench for young pros Dylan Asonganyi and Matthew Sorinola.
Despite a dominant first-half from the Dons, it was Stevenage who registered the first shot on goal – Jason Cowley with a long-range effort which Joe Walsh get his head to, to clear. Walsh made another vital block inside the box moments later.
At the other end, the Dons made their first shot on goal count. Stevenage failed to deal with Dickenson’s corner which provided McGrandles with an opportunity on the edge of the box and he lashed a low right-footed shot through the crowd and past the goalkeeper for the opener. 0-1.
Tisdale’s men almost made it two three minutes later following some good work by Nombe down the left. He played in McGrandles, whose cross was put behind in front of an on-rushing George Williams. From the resulting corner, Walsh headed over.
Dickenson had a fantastic opportunity to open his MK DOns account on 21 minutes but failed to hit the target from Nombe’s cross. The young forward did brilliantly down the right to move into the area and find the free man with his ball.
Stevenage almost made them pay with their next chance but Stuart Moore produced a point-blank save to deny Craig Mackail-Smith.
Dickenson and Nombe combined again midway through the first half with the former crossing for the latter, who headed wide.
Moore did well to adjust himself to keep out Arthur Iontton’s deflected strike in the 34th minute. The Dons goalkeeper then watched wide a header from Mackail-Smith, following a cross in from the left.
With five minutes left in the half, an ambitious try from Jordan Bowery almost made its way past Sacha Bastien but the Boro goalkeeper managed to avoid being caught out at his near post.
The final effort of the first half came from the hosts – a free-kick which curled harmlessly wide of Moore’s far upright.
MK Dons started the second half well and Jordan Houghton produced a save out of Bastien just four minutes in, after climbing well to meet Bowery’s teasing cross. At the other end of the pitch, Jack Smith forced Moore into a save with a fierce strike from the edge of the area.
Moore was called into action again a minute later to keep out a free-kick which was inadvertently deflected towards goal by Kasumu. The midfielder then did well to block a try by Mackail-Smith.
Williams had a low free-kick blocked on its way to goal just before the hour mark. Boro substitute Ben Kennedy then threatened with a mazy run into area but he sent his strike over from inside the area.
Tisdale went to the bench on 64 minutes, bringing Hiram Boateng and Baily Cargill on in place of Bowery and Dickenson, the latter after getting over an hour in the bank in his first start of the campaign.
With 19 minutes to play, Kelland Watts flashed wide from long range. Six minutes later, the Dons made the game safe.
Williams played the ball over the top of the Stevenage defence to Nombe, who raced through and did well to bring the bouncing ball under control before confidently stabbing the ball past the on-rushing Bastien. 0-2.
Moore denied the hosts with a fantastic diving save moments after the re-start. On the counter, Tisdale’s men almost made it three but Williams was stalled by a diving block on the line – the offside flag would have denied him also.
Nombe fired into the side netting on 82 minutes before Kasumu was kept out from 25-yards by a superb diving save from Bastien.
The Dons did get a third with six minutes to play and it was Nombe on target for a second time - the 20-year-old showing his composure, once again, when one-on-one, from Kasumu's defence-splitting through pass, to tuck the ball past Bastien for his third goal in as many games. 0-3.
Nombe had the opportunity to complete a hat-trick in the final minute of regulation time but blazed over from Cargill’s cut-back. That proved to be the final effort of the game which meant a winning start to the Leasing.com Trophy campaign for Tisdale and his men.
Starting XI: Moore, Williams, Lewington, Walsh, Bowery (Boateng 64), Dickenson (Cargill 64), Martin, McGrandles, Houghton, Nombe, Kasumu.
Unused subs: Nicholls, Gilbey, Agard, Asonganyi, Sorinola.
Goals: McGrandles (16), Nombe (77, 84)
Attendance: 789 (173 away)