Milton Keynes Dons Under 18s began their League campaign with a 2-1 win against local rivals Northampton Town.
Despite missing fourteen players including Brendan Galloway, Dele Alli and Ben Tilney who were away with England and trio Mason Spence, Mo Ahmed and Georgio Rasulo who were nursing injuries, the Dons’ academy side dominated from start to finish and thoroughly deserved their victory.
With Mike Dove away, Dan Micciche took control of the side that was made up of mostly Under 16 players and also 13-year-old Hugo Logan. Harry Hickford, fresh from his appearance with the first-team against Fulham on Tuesday, captained the side.
The Dons started the game brightly and right from the outset imposed their style on the game, controlling the tempo with their patient passing football, much to the frustration of the home team.
It took until the ninth minute for the youngsters to have their first real chance of the match, Kelvin Osei-Addo hitting the post after playing a neat one-two.
With both the Under 18s and Under 16s playing matches during the week, the players came into the game fatigued but it did not show as they continued to move the ball around comfortably rarely allowing a Cobblers player to have a touch of the ball.
Finally the deadlock was broken in the 43rd minute and it was the youngest player on the park, Logan who raced into the area before placing the ball past the Northampton ‘keeper to put the Dons ahead before half-time.
After the break the young side took their foot of the pedal and Town, who had changed formation to accommodate the dominant Dons midfield, crept back into the game and hit the post from a corner early on in the half.
Logan was replaced 20 minutes into the half by Gedeon Okitto as the Micciche’s side looked to regain their hold on the match before Northampton grabbed an equaliser.
Unfortunately, Northampton did grab the leveller just after the hour mark after Remy Forrester conceded a penalty and the home team converted past Charlie Burns in the Dons goal.
This provided the wake-up call the Dons needed and they gradually got themselves back in it, going close to a second on several occasions. Their resurgence was dealt a double-blow with 15 minutes left when the experience Will Summerfield and Ben Grant were forced off through injury, being replaced by Jay Taylor and Laurence Vaughan, both of whom are Under 16’s.
The two injuries forced the Dons to reshuffle but they continued to work hard and stick to their ethos of playing good football and they were almost rewarded in the 77th minute but Kyron Walsh’s effort could not beat the woodwork after beating the goalkeeper.
The Dons were in complete control throughout the latter stages, with Arran Weston and Harry Hickford in particular instrumental in all the Buckinghamshire side’s attacks.
Finally, with only five minutes remaining, the Dons grabbed the winner through Kabongo Tshimanga. With time running out, Kyle Whiltshire managed to get a shot across goal and after it rebounded off the post, Kabongo was on hand to calmly slot home to collect the three points for the Dons.
Assistant Academy Manager Dan Micciche was very pleased with his team’s performance but remains level-headed, stating that there is still work to do.
“I’m very pleased with well we kept the ball and controlled the speed of the game.
“I’m even more delighted considering how young we were in comparison to Northampton and I must give a special mention to Hugo Logan who scored in an Under 18 game at the age of 13.
“Individually I thought everyone played well but there’s still lots more to work on. They need to keep doing what they’ve been doing for the past five or six years and we need to keep testing them.”
MK Dons Under 18s (3-1-4-1-1): Burns; Walsh, Grant (Taylor), Forrester; Weston; Logan (Okitto), Harry Hickford (c), Whiltshire, Tshimanga; Summerfield (Vaughan); Osei-Addo.