A young MK Dons side booked their place in the Berks & Bucks Cup Quarter Final with a 2-1 win over Hungerford Town.
The Calor League Premier Division side gave the men from MK1 a good game but an own goal in the 25th minute and a Tom Flanagan header put the Dons 2-0 up at the break.
The Crusaders had nothing to lose in the second half and pulled a goal back through the impressive Alan O’Brien. The hosts though, couldn’t find the goal they needed for force extra-time and it was the Dons who progressed through the next round.
Goalkeeping coach Paul Heald and striker Alan Smith took the managerial reigns for the night as MK Dons fielded a strong starting XI with a mixture of first team and youth team players. The most positive sight for any Dons fan was the inclusion of Daniel Powell, who started his first match of the season after suffering ankle ligament damage just days before the 2013/14 campaign began.
The match started in a frantic fashion with the Dons keen to put down an earlier marker, Kelvin Osei-Addo saw a half-chance smothered by the ‘keeper and another fall wide of the post while the hosts showed excellent pace down the left to create an opening but no one could follow up as the ball whizzed across the face of goal.
Hungerford Town had a fine opportunity to break the deadlock in the 18th minute when Flanagan’s foul on Day earned the hosts a central free-kick some 20-yards out. Stanley was able to call on a save from Charlie Burns but it was a simple block for the third-year scholar as the low delivery fizzed through the wall.
The Crusaders were able to cause problems for the Dons as Brown showed great skill on the right flank to create an opening as he whipped in a cross for Clark. Clark, however, couldn’t quite connect with his shot and fired straight into Burns’ arms.
Within a minute the Dons were back on the attack as Brendan Galloway pushed forward from his left-back position and was able to cut the ball back from the byline into a crowded penalty area. In the mêlée Hungerford’s Luke Brewer turned the ball into his own net and gave the Dons a 1-0 lead after 25 minutes.
After taking the lead the Dons were able to slow down the tempo of the game and dictate the style of play. As half-time approached the visitors extended their lead when Ben Reeves whipped in a fine corner for Flanagan to connect with thanks to a towering header at the near post.
There was certainly no room for complacency to sneak into the Dons’ play and they were quickly given a stark warning six minutes into the second half when a cross from the right found O’Brien who duly drilled a low, well-taken strike under the body of Burns.
Pulling a goal back gave the hosts some wind in the sails and they pushed on to find an equaliser. Goal scorer O’Brien tried to provide the assist as he found room on the flank before cross into a crowded box, but no Hungerford player could apply the finish. As the Dons defence cleared the ball Banton was released on the attack, the offside flag stayed down but the winger was denied from close range by an alert Strudley between the sticks.
With 15 minutes remaining both Flanagan and Powell, who had both been included in the line-up to get some much-needed minutes under their belts, made way for Kabonga Tshimanga and Luke Tingey.
Tshimanga almost made an immediate impact with some great skill in the box only for the Crusaders goalie to pull off a superb save.
At the other end Hungerford broke quickly and should have found the equaliser when the impressive O’Brien tore down the right wing to find an unmarked Draycott, but the Crusaders man couldn’t stop his shot from rising well over.
Hungerford pushed forward in the late stages but the Dons held firm and, more importantly, saw fringe players and youth team stars put in a solid performance.
Hungerford Town: Strudley, Hughes, Stanley, Boardman, Day, Brewer, Gray, Rees (Horgan 76), Brown (Goodger 78), Clark (Draycott 65), O’Brien.
Subs not used: Hopkins, Stow.
MK Dons: Burns; Baldock, Hickford, Flanagan (c) (Tingey 75), Galloway; Reeves, Summerfield (Wiltshire 64); Powell (Tshimanga 75), Rasulo, Banton; Osei-Addo.
Subs not used: Weston.