Ten man MK Dons booked their place in the second round of the Capital One Cup with a 5-3 penalty shoot-out win over Cheltenham Town.
Ryan Lowe netted the winning spot-kick in a dramatic game that was forced through to extra-time and penalties after the score finished 1-1.
Stephen Gleeson was sent-off in controversial circumstances in the 38th minute when a strong challenge on Sam Deering was deemed dangerous by referee Steve Rushton, leaving the Dons to see out the remainder of the game with 10 men.
Dean Bowditch fired the Dons ahead four minutes before half-time but in the 58th minute a deflected strike from Kaid Mohamed levelled the scores which ultimately took the game through to extra-time and ultimately penalties.
Dean Bowditch, Charlie MacDonald, Gary MacKenzie, Antony Kay and Lowe all netted fine penalties while Darryl Duffy saw his spot-kick saved by Martin meaning the hosts bowed out of the competition.
With the Olympics delaying the start of the Football League, the season got underway with the first round of the Capital One Cup, yet few would have predicted extra-time in the opening day of the season.
The introduction of Ryan Lowe added an extra dimension to the Dons’ game and forced a number of saves from the excellent Scott Brown, while Jay O’Shea also forced saves and Dean Lewington hit the woodwork in an action-packed game at the Abbey Business Stadium.
The Dons reverted to their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation with Charlie MacDonald leading the line with support from Dean Bowditch, Luke Chadwick and Jay O’Shea. There was no room in the starting XI for any of the new faces brought into stadiummk in the summer although Ryan Lowe, Alan Smith and Antony Kay were named on the bench.
Cheltenham, like the Dons, were looking for a positive start to the campaign following heartache in the play-offs. The League 2 had a bright start to the match and it was through their dead ball play that caused the Dons the most trouble.
Most of the action seemed to be centred around Shaun Williams in the opening half an hour as the midfield-turned-defender found himself heading clear Billy Jones’ corner before his foul Sam Deering presented Jones with a free-kick which was eventually fired over by Kaid Mohamed.
Williams almost found himself when a cynical foul on Jermaine McGlashan outside the box was spotted by the referee but went unpunished. The resulting free-kick was fired straight at the Dons wall which brought appeals of handball against Chadwick, but they were waved away.
Moments later there was more action inside the Dons’ box when Deering fell to the ground behind Williams, but he found himself with a caution to his name as he was adjudged to have taken a dive in the area.
The Dons’ chances had been limited but when O’Shea was released down the left flank they quickly showed their quality in opportunities could prove the difference. The exciting Dons winger curled a superb shot from the left to the right only for Scott Brown to deny O’Shea the opener as he excellently pushed the ball onto the post.
Dons were dealt a blow close to the half an hour mark when Williams was subbed after getting to his feet slowly following a Cheltenham corner. Taking no risks with the League 1 season on the horizon, Williams was replaced by new signing Kay, who was introduced for his Dons debut.
The afternoon went from bad to worse for the Dons when Gleeson went in with a strong, yet appeared to be controlled, challenge on Deering. The Robins midfielder stayed on the floor to receive treatment, and in the meantime referee Steve Rushton handed out an immediate red card to Gleeson, which appeared to be a harsh decision.
However, that stirred the Dons into life and they managed to produce their best football of the half with 10 men. Switching to a 4-4-1 system the Dons picked off the ball in midfield and O’Shea once again dazzled through midfield, on this occasion he drifted into the right of the box to feed a ball through to Bowditch.
Bowditch ghosted into the box completely unnoticed by the Cheltenham defence to turn a fine left-footed shot into the net despite desperate attempts to clear by the Robins’ backline.
As the second half commenced the Dons refused to sit and defend their lead, instead they piled forward for a corner but it allowed the Robins to hit on the counterattack. Kaid Mohamed delivered a long ball through to Chris Zebroski whose shot fell kindly into the arms of David Martin.
Martin was back in the thick of it though only moments later when Zebroski was again played through to goal and the Dons ‘keeper raced off his line to close him down, however, the striker crossed deep but luckily for the Dons no one arrived to follow-up into the empty net.
Cheltenham were applying the pressure and knocking on the door for an equaliser and it came in the 58th minute in the most spectacular fashion. The ball was played from the left touchline to Mohamed who took one look up and put his laces through the ball as he lifted a fierce deflected shot over the head of Martin from 30-yards.
McGlashan had a glorious chance to send the hosts into the lead five minutes later when he turned past Dean Lewington to break into the box but instead of pulling the ball back to Zebroski the winger opted to pull the trigger from a difficult angle and his effort was blocked by Martin.
Understandable, with a man advantage Cheltenham looked on top in the game so Robinson decided to introduce fresh legs in Alan Smith and Ryan Lowe, who made his competitive debut.
The Dons reverted to a brave 3-4-2 formation as Adam Chicksen switched from right-back to the left of midfield and the visitors found a second wing. Great link-up play between Bowditch and Smith brought Lowe into play and with his first touch he riffled a fierce drive just wide of the near post.
The lively striker showed exactly why Robinson brought him in when, with his second touch, he turned a volley from Lewington’s cross goal-bound only for Brown to produce an excellent one-handed save.
At the other end, McGlashan continued to stretch the Dons with a good cross into the box with Zebroski adding to the Dons’ nerves when his header flashed wide.
Robinson’s men continued to create chances despite their numerical disadvantage as Bowditch sprayed the ball to the feet of MacDonald but the striker, at an acute angle, slid low in an attempt to lift the ball over the ‘keeper yet the shot kept on rising over the bar.
The final chance of extra-time fell to the feet of Lowe who found himself on the end of a free-kick but from three-yards out the ball appeared to get stuck under his feet and eventually Brown was able to clear the danger.
But after 90 minutes there was nothing to separate the sides and it was left to extra-time.
Two minutes into extra-time a fine free-kick from the left foot of Lewington looked to have had Brown beaten, but the Dons skipper was denied by the post, but the remainder of the first half stayed relatively quiet with Mohamed trying to repeat his excellent goal only to fire wide and high.
Robins’ best chance of the extra-time first half came in the final minute when full-back Sido Jombati beat Chicksen on the left and his intelligent cross-come-shot was cut out at the near post by Gary MacKenzie.
The second period of extra-time began with some drama as Mohamed raced clear through midfield and powered a shot into the box, which was mis-hit but he nearly got a slice of luck when Kay’s attempted clearance dragged just wide of the post. At the other end Keith Lowe’s clearance in the goalmouth prevented Bowditch from claiming the winner goal.
Cheltenham finished strongly with Darryl Duffy sending a deflected shot wide but ultimately it came down to the lottery of penalties. The Dons’ excellent spot-kicks saw them through and it was what they deserved after an excellent battle.
Cheltenham Town (4-2-3-1): Brown; Jombati, Hooman, Bennett (c) (K Lowe), Jones; Pack, Penn; McGlashan, Mohamed, Deering (Harrad 68); Zebroski (Duffy 84).
Subs not used: Roberts, Andrew, Graham, Hanks.
Goal: Mohamed 58
MK Dons (4-2-3-1): Martin; Chicksen, MacKenzie, Williams (Kay 29), Lewington (c); Potter, Gleeson; Bowditch, Chadwick (Lowe 71), O’Shea (Smith 61); MacDonald.
Subs not used: McLoughlin, R Lowe, Powell, Kay.
Booked: Chadwick, Kay, Potter
Sent-off: Gleeson 41
Goal: Bowditch 45
Referee: Steven Rushton (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 1,660 (352 away)