MK Dons Under-18s have completed their pre-season and are now ready and raring to go for their Youth Alliance season which starts this Saturday away to Northampton Town.
Mike Dove’s side returned to training at the start of July to prepare themselves for the new season in a new League now the Elite Player Performance Programme (EPPP) is in place.
After a week of testing and core fitness work, the youngsters played their first friendly against Stevenage on Saturday 14th July. The Dons were beaten 3-0 but director of youth Dove was pleased with the workout and didn’t take too much notice of the score-line, especially considering Stevenage had been in training for three weeks compared to the Dons’ one week. Despite the loss, the Dons were technically the better side and achieved what they wanted on the rain-soaked July morning.
The young Dons then headed off to a training camp in Manchester where the players were given a chance to bond, while getting four days worth of hard-work under their belts. The side were well looked after and it allowed the boys to spend some time together, being treated to a couple of social trips out including a visit to the cinema.
After returning from their camp refreshed and closer as a group, the team won their first game of the summer, beating Van Dyke College very comfortably. Mike Dove was particularly pleased with the difference in performance from the Stevenage game, with his players working hard from start to finish pressing the opposition throughout.
The next fixture for the team was against Wolverton Town in a friendly arranged to help raise funds for the non-league side after recently moving into a new facility. In front of the Dons Chairman Pete Winkelman, the side managed to come away victorious thanks to a direct free-kick from Kelvin Osei-Addo early in the first-half. The match allowed Dove to run the rule over numerous trialists due to a number of the squad - Mason Spence, Brendan Galloway, Dele Alli and Harry Hickford - away in Dublin with the first team.
Three days later and with the quartet of Mason, Brendan, Dele and Harry back in the side, the Under 18s took on QPR at Woughton on the Green. The boys were aware of how tough a test this was going to be and after going a goal down in the first minute, the task was made even harder. However, the team battled hard and despite being 2-1 down at half-time they started the second half brilliantly and managed to get themselves in front with goals from Will Summerfield, Brendan Galloway and a brace from French trialist Emmanuel.
QPR showed their quality by pulling back two goals late on to draw level but Mike Dove was pleased with how well the team played and how they responded after the break, starting to work harder off the ball and looking to win the ball back all the time.
This left only two more friendlies for the youngsters, with Ampthill the first on Wednesday 1st August. Dan Micchie took control of the team and handed a debut to 13-year-old Hugo Logan who helped the very young side to earn a 2-2 draw before losing out on penalties. Ben Grant, a first-year scholar, impressed the coaching staff along with the rest of the players who were more than a match for their much older counterparts.
Finally the Dons took on Barnet which provided a disappointing end to what has been a successful pre-season. Missing both Dele and Brendan, who were away on international duty, and with many more injured and unavailable, Dove’s team found themselves five goals down with half an hour to go. The director of youth was disappointed and made sure his side were fully aware of that fact which evoked an immediate response as the Dons pulled it back to 5-3.
With the pre-season fixtures all done and dusted Dove is hoping for a successful start to the season beginning with a local derby with Northampton Town on Saturday.
Speaking to mkdons.com he said: “We have a fantastic group of talented individuals who are still adjusting to the expectations put upon them. They need to start accepting responsibility but all in all I’m very pleased with how pre-season’s gone and I’m looking forward to the season ahead.”
Dove was also proud of his two youngsters Brendan and Dele who are currently away on international duty with England Under 17s and also welcomed the opportunity for some younger faces to get some playing time and experience in their absence.
“I’ve been very impressed with Dele and Brendan, on how they’ve matured as boys being with the first-team in Ireland and now at the Nordic Tournament with England. Another positive with them going away is that we can give a few younger players a chance including the likes of Georgio Rasulo, Ben Tilney, Luke Tingey and many more.
“I’ve been delighted with the attitude and quality of some of the younger players and I’m excited to see them come through. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a few more names appear around the first-team like we did last year, this season.”
Below is a list of MK Dons Under 18s’ Youth Alliance League fixtures for 2012/13 season:
Sat 11 – Northampton Town (A)
Sat 18 – Stevenage (H)
Sat 25 – Dagenham & Redbridge (A)
Sat 8 – Peterborough United (H)
Sat 22 – Luton Town (H)
Sat 29 – Leyton Orient (A)
Sat 6 – FL Cup
Sat 13 – FL Cup
Sat 20 – FL Cup
Sat 27 – FL Cup
Sat 3 – FL Cup/F.A Youth Cup
Sat 17 – Peterborough United (A) / F.A Youth Cup 2
Sat 8 – Leyton Orient (H)
Sat 15 – F.A Youth Cup 3
Sat 12 – Luton Town (A)
Sat 19 – FL Cup / F.A Youth Cup 4
Sat 26 – Northampton Town (H)
Sat 2 – Stevenage (A)
Sat 9 – Dagenham & Redbridge (H) / F.A Youth Cup 5
Sat 16 – FL Cup
Sat 23 – Crawley Town (A) / F.A Youth Cup 6
Sat 3 – Aldershot Town (H)
Sat 9 – AFC Wimbledon (A)
Sat 16 – AFC Bournemouth (H) / F.A Youth Cup semi-final 1
Sat 23 – Southend (A)
Sat 6 – Portsmouth (H)
Sat 13 – Gillingham (A)