Manager Karl Robinson was full of praise for his young stars after MK Dons’ 3-2 victory over Shrewsbury Town on Saturday afternoon.
The Dons closed the gap on the play-off places earlier today with a hard-earned victory over the Shrews; a victory which came courtesy of goals from 17-year-old Dele Alli, 18-year-old Chris Long on his debut and winger Dean Bowditch, who made his first appearance of an injury ravaged season.
Robinson’s men did make things difficult for themselves late-on and Joe Jacobson’s 85th minute strike had set up a nervy finish but the men from MK1 were able to hang on and move up to 10th in Sky Bet League 1.
And after the game the 33-year-old Dons boss was keen to single out his ‘tremendous’ young players, who, he believes, proved to be the difference.
Robinson said: “All the headlines should be about a 17 and an 18-year-old scoring our first two goals because it’s remarkable; I don’t think there’s anywhere in the country that can boast that.
“We had to stand up and be counted today and, to their credit, Shrewsbury made our job really difficult. Sometimes we allowed Shrewsbury too much freedom and easy opportunities to get out but I thought 3-2 was probably a fair result.
“It was a very even matched game topped off by bits of genius from our young kids and a special player that’s been out for a long time.”
That special player was, indeed, Bowditch, who scored his first goal of the season with only his second touch of the season and although Robinson isn’t getting carried away by the 27-year-old’s return, he was eager to pay tribute to the player.
“I do harp on about the quality (Dean) possesses and moan when he’s not fit and that’s the reason why. I think he’s a tremendous player. But, we’ve still got a really intense programme for him and he’s got to do a lot more work now.”
Along with Dean, debutant Long, on loan from Everton, will also feature in the headlines this weekend after netting his first senior goal on his senior debut and his new manager Robinson was delighted with his impressive performance.
He added: “(Chris) was the biggest threat on the pitch today. He was quick, he was brave, he worked hard, he didn’t let anybody come through him and win the ball easily and he’s only 18 years of age.
“It’s a daunting task for an 18-year-old to come down here away from home and perform like he has today against two experienced central defenders.
“He’s not the finished article yet because he’s 18 but he’s been brought up the right way at a very good football club and I’ve seen glimpses today of someone who will be a real player.”
With the result now in the books, the Dons now move on to what will be a busy January period with six games coming in the space of just three weeks. But, with players now starting to return to full fitness, Robinson is excited about where his team can go.
“One thing that stood out to me was how strong our bench looked. When you look at the people who didn’t get on today it just shows you that now we’re getting people back, we’re going to get stronger and stronger. There’s a lot more to come from us.”