Report: Newport County 2-3 MK Dons
The hosts were 2-0 up after 55 minutes but a brace from the returning Dean Bowditch and a debut strike from Ben Tilney completed a dramatic comeback.
Karl Robinson included 13 MK Dons Academy players in his squad for the fixture in South Wales, nine of which started the game, alongside new signings Lee Nicholls and Scott Wootton, who captained the team.
Newport enjoyed the majority of the early possession but the Dons started solidly and Brandon Thomas-Asante almost caught out Joe Day with an instinctive effort after cutting in from the left touchline on 11 minutes.
The hosts should have gone ahead two minutes later but Jamie Turley headed Sean Rigg’s cross wide at the back post when well placed – a let-off for the men from MK1.
A superb one-two between Ben Tilney and Kabongo Tshimanga set up a shooting chance for the latter and he duly took it but Day was up to the task, pushing away the 25-yard effort.
The lively Thomas-Asante then saw a shot deflect into the grateful arms of Day after good pressure from the Dons while, at the other end, former Don Mark Randall fired wide before Lee Nicholls comfortably gathered a weak Rigg effort.
It was end-to-end stuff as the game ticked past the midway point of the first half and a moment of magic from Giorgio Rasulo came close to breaking the deadlock – Dons’ No.20 picking the ball up on the left, nutmegging his marker, beating another before dragging his low drive wide.
Nicholls made a magnificent save from Ben Tozer to keep the Dons on level terms but there was nothing he could do on 31 minutes as Marlon Jackson turned home Dan Butler’s cut-back.
The Dons keeper was again called into action shortly afterwards, pushing over Turley’s close-range effort.
On 35 minutes, a powerful run from Tshimanga helped create an opportunity for Thomas-Asante, who pulled his 20-yard shot wide of the left-hand post.
Robinson’s side ended the half the stronger of the two teams and only a superb block denied an acrobatic Rasulo effort finding the back of the net.
That continued at the start of the second period as Thomas-Asante flashed a 20-yard inches wide of the right-hand post.
However, against the run of play, the hosts were awarded a penalty after Oliver Langford deemed George B Williams had handled in the area – Randall squeezed his spot-kick past Nicholls to make it 2-0 on 54 minutes.
That didn’t deter the young Dons, who continued to push forward for goals and they looked dangerous in the process.
Alongside Daniel Powell, Dean Bowditch made his return to action after a calf injury on 61 minutes – less than two minutes later the forward had won a penalty and converted it in style. Some introduction, that!
2-1 quickly became 2-2 as Dons’ pressure was rewarded on 69 minutes when Tilney advanced forward and fired a 25-yard effort into the top-left hand corner – a magnificent debut goal for the left-back!
Full of confidence, Robinson’s men kept the heat on the hosts and Day had to be alert to gather a GB Williams cross before tipping over a fiercely-struck effort from Andrew Osei-Bonsu, who was offering good energy in midfield.
George C Williams replaced Tshimanga with just over 10 minutes remaining, meaning both George Williams’ were on the field for the first time together.
A rare scare for the Dons saw Turley hit the post at the back post from a County corner, this coming before Randall curled a 20-yard shot wide of the target.
The Dons were still creating chances of their own and Bowditch was denied by Day after cutting in dangerously from the left touchline.
Bowditch went one better in the final minute to complete a superb turnaround in South Wales, finishing superbly from Thomas-Asante’s cross from the right.
Starting XI: Nicholls; GB Williams, Wootton (c), Jackson, Tilney; Osei-Bonsu, Kasumu (Bowditch 61); Furlong (Powell 61), Rasulo, Thomas-Asante; Tshimanga (GC Williams 79).
Unused subs: Burns, Downing, Upson, Nombe.
Goals: Bowditch (63, 90), Tilney (69).