MK Dons Under-18s were beaten 2-1 by Stevenage at Woughton-on-the-Green on Saturday morning.
The Dons went behind to an early strike before a penalty with 12 minutes to go put the Hertfordshire side two goals ahead. A stoppage-time finish from Ryan Holmes was the only consolation for the Dons.
Stevenage took the lead in the 13th minute as, from a goal kick, they broke quickly upfield and whipped a ball in from the right hand side which was converted into the net from close range. 0-1.
Boro nearly doubled their lead from a corner kick on the half-hour mark which was played in from the right and flicked dangerously towards goal, forcing Dons keeper Tom Carter into some sharp reflexes to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Despite some neat moves in the Stevenage half, the Dons were struggling to create clear opportunities against well-organised opponents.
On the hour mark, they did show some good one-touch play in the final third, but the effort from the edge of the area was skied wide of the target.
The Hertfordshire side were then awarded a penalty in the 78th minute following a foul in the area. Boro captain Jack Smith took the spot kick and hit a low shot into the right hand side of the net, with Carter having dived to the left. 0-2.
The Dons got a goal back in stoppage time from a corner which was played in from the right and touched in from close range by Ryan Holmes. 1-2.
The goal was too late in the game to allow the Dons to apply a concerted spell of pressure on the Stevenage goal.
Speaking after the match, Academy Manager Jon Goodman said: “Today’s match followed a familiar pattern. I likened our performance to playing golf – we hit some good shots which keep us coming back but there are lots of bad moments which are frustrating.
“In the first half, our performance was reasonable but we continued our struggles of recent matches in that we did not have a cutting edge in the final third. We had some good moments but the final ball let us down.
“Despite them dominating the play I did not feel they really broke us down. We conceded a goal from a set piece which was disappointing and then conceded a late penalty.
“We lacked fluency in the second half. We have a lot of younger players in attacking areas at the moment and often they are struggling to cope with the challenges posed by the opposition.”
He added: “This is the start of the long journey to reignite the Academy and get us pointing in the same direction. It is a tough time for the Under-18s but there are positives – playing are progressing through the ranks and we will get to a good place.”
Starting XI: Carter, Robinson, Black, Freeman, Sule, Leach (c), Johnson, Bailey (Crane 76), Holmes, Jallow, Deall (Martin 54).
Unused subs: Mumford, Riley, Ilunga.
Goal: Holmes (90+1)