MK Dons Under-18s secured their long-awaited first win of the current Youth Alliance League campaign as they beat Northampton Town 3-2 at Woughton on the Green.
Northampton took an early lead before the Dons levelled soon after half-time from the penalty spot, thanks to John Freeman (pictured).
They then took the lead through goals from James Holmes and Harry Riley, but despite having a player sent off, Northampton pulled a goal back forcing the Dons to endure a nervy finish before victory was secured.
The visitors posed problems from set pieces early on and in the third minute a corner from the right hit the near post directly.
Three minutes later a set piece gave the Cobblers the lead, as a low free-kick from around 20 yards out appeared to go under the wall and into the net. 0-1.
Despite the side from Northamptonshire coming into this encounter top of the league table, the Dons were more than matching them and created some openings throughout the half however they were let down by wayward finishing.
Around five minutes before the break, the Dons came very close to levelling as a ball across from the right side came to Josh Bailey whose first-time half volley smacked the crossbar.
A great double chance came the Dons way early in the second half as a through ball was misjudged by the Northampton keeper and forced him to dribble to the edge of the area to complete a clearance.
With the keeper out of goal the ball came to Bailey who could have attempted a shot but instead drove forward before shooting, allowing a covering defender to make a clearance. The rebound came to a Dons player inside the box but he shot wide of the near post.
Ten minutes into the second half, the Dons were awarded a penalty after James Holmes was chopped down as he drove into the left hand side of the box. Freeman netted the penalty, putting the ball into the bottom left hand corner as the keeper dived away to the right. 1-1.
Six minutes later, the Dons took the lead when the ball was played to Holmes on the edge of the area. The number nine took a touch before unleashing a left-footed half volley into the net. 2-1.
The Dons were in dreamland as they took the lead from a 72nd-minute free-kick which was whipped in from the left and then dispatched into the net courtesy of a towering header inside the box by Riley. 3-1.
Five minutes later, the Dons hopes of victory were given a boost when a Northampton player was dismissed for two yellow cards.
A few moments after the red card the Dons had a great double chance to seal the win. A good driving run saw Rio Deall beat a couple of players on the left-hand side and once inside the box unleash a shot which the keeper parried away. The rebound came to Bailey whose close-range right-footed effort clipped the post.
The Cobblers pulled a goal back with five minutes remaining to ensure a tense finale as a ball in from the right was converted first time inside the box. 3-2.
The result was all the more impressive given the Dons lost the reverse fixture 8-1 earlier in the season and afterwards, Academy Manager Jon Goodman said: “After today the pressure of the winless run is off and it should help the players in future matches.
“Despite the fact that with the Academy we are always looking at the bigger picture, there is no doubt that victory tastes sweet.
“It was frustrating that last week the players were not taking into the game what we had learned in training. Today every player followed the instructions that they were given, were consistent with how they did things and then experienced success.
“We have a habit of conceding early in games because we have a tendency to crumble when put under pressure. We have now built some resilience – and because the players keep doing things correctly we are starting to reap some rewards.
“There was some good build-up to help us win the penalty. I think John is our top scorer despite not netting from open play!
“We had a young defence and they weathered a lot of pressure making blocks and headers and clearing their lines when necessary.”
He added: “In context, today is just another game but it is excellent for the players to see the fruits of their hard work in terms of results and to get a win that boosts their confidence and reinforces good habits.”
Starting XI: Carter, Smith, Black (Ogwaeor 42), Freeman, Leach (c), Riley, Robinson, Rowley (Jallow 88), Holmes, Bailey, Deall.
Subs not used: Crane, Mumford, Wanguzi.
Goals: Freeman (pen 55), Holmes 62, Riley 72