MK Dons Under-18s started their 2016/17 Youth Alliance League campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Barnet at Woughton-on-the-Green on a warm and sunny Saturday morning.
They improved following the interval but despite a goal from Dylan Asonganyi (pictured) they couldn’t strike again to earn a share of the spoils.
The young Dons found themselves 1-0 down after seven minutes when a Bees player found himself in space inside the box and converted the chance to give the Londoners the lead.
They were then given a let-off on 12 minutes when firstly keeper Nathan Pickworth made a good save from close range and then a covering player produced a goal-line clearance to stop the follow-up from going in.
Three minutes later the Dons escaped once again as Barnet applied more pressure in a move which saw them strike the woodwork twice.
This seemed to act as a wake-up call and moments later the Dons had their first effort of note as a shot from range from midfielder Andrew Osei-Bonsu went just a few yards wide of the goal.
The Dons were growing in confidence and they began to get their passing fluency going, with a good move on 29 minutes leading to a shot just over from Asonganyi, who was deployed in the central striking role.
A golden chance came the Dons’ way on 32 minutes as a good run down the right from Osei-Bonsu saw him commit and then beat the keeper. He unselfishly squared it to unmarked Sam Nombe inside the box, however the winger got underneath the ball and lifted his effort over the crossbar.
Then, against the run of play, Barnet doubled their lead from a set-piece. The Dons gave away a free-kick just outside the D and the Barnet number eight picked his spot in the top right-hand corner to make it 2-0 to the Bees at the break.
After half-time, the Dons started brightly and had a good chance in the 49th minute when a cross from Asonganyi was headed just wide from close range by a stretching Nombe.
Three minutes later, the second-year scholar had another chance of his own making as he turned with the ball following a throw and hit a dipping shot which stung the gloves of the visitors’ keeper.
Nombe came even closer in the 57th minute as he picked up a through ball inside the box and rounded the Bees keeper. His shot, though, lacked pace and it was cleared away by a black and orange shirt just in front of the goal-line.
Eventually, the Dons got a deserved goal back on 61 minutes as a corner from the right by Hugo Logan was headed in at the near post by Asonganyi. 1-2.
Midway through the second half, the Dons struck the woodwork again as a fierce 30-yard drive from full-back Juma Omar cracked off the crossbar.
Chances continued to come and go for the Dons and on 85 minutes it was the turn of substitute David Kasumu to force a save from the Bees keeper from a tight angle.
A late Osei-Bonsu shot from range proved to be the last chance of the match on a slightly frustrating day for the Dons, who on another occasion could easily have won the game given the number of chances they created in the second half.
After the match head of academy coaching Edu Rubio said: “We started sloppily in the first half and we took time to get into the game. Once we did, we started playing the MK Dons way which was always our objective.
“Unfortunately we conceded on the counter and then after we had created a couple of chances to equalise they scored from a free-kick just before the break.
“I said at half-time our target was to score two goals in 30 minutes without conceding and I think the players really stuck to that task.
“We created loads of opportunities but it was one of those games where we could have played another 300 minutes and not scored the second goal.”
He continued: “I’m pleased because the boys played very well, made lots of chances, played the MK Dons way and we were competitive throughout the game.”
Starting XI (4-3-3): Pickworth; Kioso, Omar, Tapp, Stratton; Osei-Bonsu, Jackson (Kasumu 46), Logan (Bonsu 78); Nombe, Asonganyi, Evans (Martin 57)
Sub not used: Rose
Goal: Asonganyi (63)