Remy Forrester returned from injury to make his first appearance of the season but he couldn’t prevent MK Dons Under-18s suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Luton Town.
Forrester has been out of action for the majority of the last two seasons following pre-season surgery in 2012, but the young defender returned to the field as a 70th minute substitute on Thursday afternoon.
Although his return couldn’t spark his side onto victory, it was nonetheless a pleasing sight on an otherwise frustrating afternoon for Mike Dove’s boys – who finished 2013 with a defeat.
The Dons did start the derby clash bright but it was Luton who were the first to register a shot on target; fortunately, though, Charlie Burns was equal to it.
Two minutes later, Burns was forced into making another important save from a corner before Kelvin Osei-Addo dragged a shot wide of the left-hand upright after beating his marker inside the penalty area.
Despite their dominance in terms of possession, it was Burns who was the busier of the two ‘keepers early-on and 10 minutes in he had to be at his very best to stop a fiercely struck volley from the edge of the area.
Soon after that, the Dons had their best opening of the first half but Ben Tilney just couldn’t latch onto Osei-Addo’s low cross after some persistent defending from schoolboy Dom Palmiero.
As the half grew on, Dove’s side looked to assert their authority on their visitors but despite playing some fantastic football at the back and in midfield, they struggled to find the crucial ball in the final third and therefore they had to make do with long-range efforts – the best of which came from Aaron Weston five minutes before the break.
Weston’s effort was the last meaningful chance of an eventful first half but it was the first opportunity of the second period which led to the visitors’ opening goal.
A cross in from the right found its way through to a Luton man inside the area and after being allowed to turn by the penalty spot, he sent a low drive beyond a helpless Burns.
On the hour, Director of Youth Dove was forced into making a change after the young Palmiero limped off with an injury. First-year scholar Jacob Daffern was his replacement and he was joined on the pitch by young ‘keeper Ben Taylor, who Dove also introduced in the second half.
The most pleasing sight for the Dons, however, was the return of Forrester on 70 minutes and it appeared as though his introduction provided the Dons with the lift they needed, as just two minutes later they drew level courtesy of a superb long-range effort from Kyran Wiltshire.
On 75 minutes, Wiltshire was again heavily involved but this time at the opposite end of the pitch; the midfielder showing his range of ability with a superb tackle and block to deny Luton a second goal.
With 10 minutes to go, the Dons were presented with a decent chance to take the lead but after Tilney did well to control Weston’s inch-perfect cross-field ball, the former blasted his left-footed shot over the bar.
And Tilney’s miss proved costly in the 84th minute when Luton took the lead for a second time after the Dons failed to deal with a cross in from the right.
The Dons did have chances to rescue a point in the closing stages – Forrester going close to a dream return to action with a left-footed effort which was blocked – but the Dove’s side were unable to find a way through and subsequently ended the calendar year with a defeat.
Speaking after the game, Dove said: “Overall, it’s important we take the positives from it. It was good to see Remy back. When he came on he gave the team a real energy and they went on and scored within a minute.
“I felt in the first half and most of the second we were doing well playing out from the back but we just have to better in the final third. We have to be more creative, a little bit sharper and a bit cleverer. We had a couple of chances but we just didn’t create enough.
“We’ve got a review of the year tomorrow and looking at the stats we’ve had an average of 62 percent possession, 85 percent pass completion but we’re not having enough shots and the ones we are, are all off target. It’s been a common theme for the last two seasons, so it is frustrating.”
MK Dons (4-1-2-3): Burns (Taylor 60); Steele, Hunt (Forrester 70), Tingey, Okito; Wiltshire; Summerfield (c), Weston; Palmiero (Daffern 60), Osei-Addo, Tilney.