MK Dons Under-18s maintained their advantage at the top of the Youth Alliance League South East table as they beat Gillingham 2-1 at Woughton-on-the-Green.
A first-half brace from striker Dylan Asonganyi helped the young Dons to a hard-earned three points in extremely windy conditions.
Manager Edu Rubio made two changes from the side that won 3-0 at Leyton Orient a week earlier – with Recoe Martin and Finn Tapp replacing Jenson Wright and Jack Hourican-Harvey in the starting XI.
The Dons created their first real chance in the 15th minute as a close-range effort from Recoe Martin was well parried by the Gills keeper, however the Dons were unable to scramble the loose ball over the line.
Clear chances were at a premium as the conditions made things tricky for both teams, with Liam Sole having a close-range effort smothered as the Dons continued to press for the opening goal.
The game began to open up around the half-hour mark with goalkeeper Alfie Jones making a smart stop with his legs from close range as the side from Kent threatened for the first time.
In the 35th minute, midfielder Brad Bell produced one of the best individual moments of play seen at Woughton this season – as he picked the ball up inside the Gills half and beat two opposing players. He was able to hit a left-footed effort from inside the penalty area however the final effort was deflected wide, denying Bell what would have been one of the highlights of the Dons’ campaign so far.
The hosts deservedly hit the front on 41 minutes when a fizzing cross from the right by Bell was finished on the half-volley from around five yards out by Asonganyi. 1-0.
The number nine doubled the Dons lead three minutes later with an inch-perfect free-kick from the edge of the D. After a decoy run, Asonganyi stepped up and curled it beautifully into the top right-hand corner of the net to make it 2-0 to the Dons at half-time.
The Gills reduced the deficit eight minutes into the second half as a right-footed shot from an unmarked Gills player from inside the area bounced in off the post to make it 2-1 – a goal against the run of play.
Asonganyi had an excellent chance to complete his hat-trick on 63 minutes as he found himself through on goal after a favourable bounce of the ball. As the keeper advanced on him, he tried to curl a right-footed shot into the far corner however the ball rolled just inches wide of the net.
Two minutes later, Asonganyi turned provider with a great ball across the box, however the incoming Bell at the far post could only sky his shot way over the top.
The hosts had to weather a late storm from Gillingham who penned them in their own half in second-half stoppage time, however they showed good character and determination to see the match out and bounce back from their previous home defeat.
After the match, Rubio said: “We started a sloppily in the first 20 minutes but then we found our composure and managed to get two goals before the break – Dylan took both his goals before the break well and I felt he deserved a hat-trick but it didn’t happen.
“Then, when we had the momentum and looked like scoring more, it was half-time and that broke up our rhythm.
“At the start of the second half we were playing against the elements and the wind really affected the game.
“They got themselves a goal after we made a mistake and in the end for the final five minutes we had to hang on for the three points.”
He continued: “Today was one of those games where we had the elements against us but still we managed to get the three points.
“We can take a lot of positives from the game, even if we weren’t able to play the way we wanted to the whole time. Today showed that even when not everyone is at their peak of performance we have the capabilities within the squad to get the win.
“That is what winning teams do and I’m pleased with the winning mentality we are creating here.
“I’m pleased that we are still top of the league but that is a consequence of the good development work we are doing of producing players for the first team.”
Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Jones; Ackom (Hourican-Harvey 66), Tapp (c), Hope, Sorinola (Evans 66); Pattison, Kasumu; Bell, Sole (Bird 46), Martin (Wright 60); Asonganyi
Unused subs: Pickworth (GK)
Goals: Asonganyi (41, 44)