A much-changed MK Dons Under-18s lost 3-2 at home to Barnet as they returned to action in the Youth Alliance League at Woughton-on-the-Green on Saturday morning.
Despite taking the lead twice in the first half, the Dons, who showed six changes from the side that lost away at Hereford in the FA Youth Cup in midweek, were unable to hold on against the Bees in a match played in cold and wet conditions.
The six changes from Wednesday night saw Brendan Galloway, Kyran Wiltshire, Aaran Weston, Kabongo Tshimanga, Giorgio Rasulo and Kelvin Osei-Addo replaced by Danny Collinge, Joe Steele, Jacob Daffern, Luke Tingey, Laurence Vaughan and Kevin Owusu.
The hosts also changed the shape of their side playing a 3-4-3 formation with three central defenders, which included debutant Steele, two wing-backs and two central midfielders, and a three-man forward line with Will Summerfield in behind Vaughan and Owusu.
The changes in system and personnel worked well early on for the Dons, and they took the lead 10 minutes in after a good run into the box from Summerfield.
Although he could have pulled the trigger straight away, Summerfield and Ben Tilney combined well before the former unleashed a great left-footed effort from inside the area to make it 1-0 to the hosts.
The visitors then levelled proceedings six minutes later when a free-kick from 25 yards out from a Barnet player beat the wall and went into the net out of the reach of Dons keeper Ben Taylor.
However, the Dons heads did not drop and they retook the lead straight from the kick-off. The visitors were caught napping by good, direct running from Dons players and they were able to capitalise on the space as Daffern finished well to give Mike Dove’s side a 2-1 advantage.
The Dons were beginning to dominate and they carved out plenty of chances, with a number of these falling to Owusu, however they could not find an equaliser.
They were made to pay for their missed opportunities right on the stroke of half-time as the Bees number 10 struck the ball well from around 25 yards out after he wasn’t closed down, making the score 2-2 at the break.
Buoyed by their goal just before the interval, Barnet started to get on top in the second half and took the lead for the first time in the match on 62 minutes. Although keeper Taylor managed to save the initial effort, the ball was squared to their extra man who finished clinically into the vacant area of the goal.
The Bees were on top for the rest of the match; however the Dons sometimes scrambling defending enabled the score line to stay at just the single goal.
After the match Director of Youth Dove said: “I’m very pleased. We changed things quite considerably today as we needed a reaction to Hereford on Wednesday night.
“I made big changes and it was a real challenge for some of the players. I’m disappointed about the scoreline, but I’m really happy about the performance and the energy we showed today.”
Dove added: “I was very happy with two of the youngsters I brought in today in Joe Steele and Kevin Owusu. It was a real opportunity for them and they played extremely well.
“Overall, it has been a tough week especially given our struggles in the cup in midweek. It has been a good learning experience though and we have come through it better off in the longer term.”
MK Dons (3-4-3): Taylor; Collinge, Steele, Hickford (c); Tilney, Daffern, Tingey, Grant; Summerfield, Vaughan, Owusu.
Subs (all unused): Pickworth, Osei-Addo, Wiltshire, Weston, Tshimanga.