MK Dons travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich City this evening, with first place in their Checkatrade Trophy group up for grabs.
Therefore, only a win tonight will see the Dons top the group and secure a home fixture in the second round of the competition, which is the start of the knock-out stages. A draw or a defeat will see them finish second and be forced to play away in the next round – that includes a draw with a penalty shoot-out extra point, due to Norwich’s superior goal difference.
Kick-off is at 7pm.
Norwich have been, by far, the best performers in the Checkatrade Trophy this season and they’ll be looking to seal a stunning group-stage campaign with another victory tonight.
The young Canaries have won both of their two matches and are the leading scorers in the entire competition with 11 goals to their name – four more than anybody else.
Former Dons loanee Josh Murphy has been the main man for City having netted five of those 11 goals while the defence should also take credit for only conceding once over 180 minutes of football.
The Dons defeated rivals Peterborough United in their previous Checkatrade Trophy group fixture, courtesy of Kieran Agard’s first-half finish.
Agard capped off a fine attacking move to put the men from MK1 ahead on 40 minutes – Brandon Thomas-Asante did excellently in the build-up before finding Samir Carruthers, who provided the cross for Agard to score.
Luke McGee denied substitute Giorgio Rasulo late in the second half before Posh wasted a glorious chance to equalise when Ryan Tafazolli headed a corner wide when well placed.
In the end, the Dons hung on to maintain their unbeaten run in the competition and, more importantly, secure qualification to the knock-out stages.
Striker Nelson Oliveira added a fourth with a stunning strike 12 minutes from time with Murphy capping off a fine victory with a hat-trick goal in the closing stages.
Murphy then doubled his and Norwich's advantage on 55 minutes before Sergi Canos’ deflected effort extended the lead to three.
The Canaries took the lead through Murphy on the brink of half-time, 14 minutes after the Bees had seen captain Bondz N’Gala dismissed for a poor foul on the winger.
Norwich followed up their impressive 6-1 win over Peterborough United with another thrashing, this time at Sky Bet League Two outfit Barnet.
Richie Barker: “The difficult thing with games like this is you don’t know what their team will be. What we do know is that Norwich have been doing extremely well in the competition so we’re under no illusions as to how difficult it will be.”
for more betting options for tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy tie - don't forget the Dons benefit every time you win with Sky Bet! here Click
*All odds correct at the time of writing
No goal: 12/1
First team to score
Norwich win: 6/4
Dons win: 13/8
Result after 90 minutes
Meanwhile, the assistant referees are Gavin Muge and Marc Wilson and Rob Whitton is the fourth official.
The Tyne & Wear official, who marshalled the Dons’ Sky Bet League One clash with Bradford City back in August, has shown 53 yellow cards in 17 games this campaign. He’s also sent off four players, although hasn’t produced his red card since the start of October.
Andy Haines will referee tonight’s match at Carrow Road, taking charge of the Dons for the second time this season.
Their squads have largely been made up of young professionals and Academy graduates but a number of recognisable first-teamers have also featured, including goalkeeper Paul Jones, midfielders Sergi Canos and Alex Pritchard, as well as ex-Dons man Josh Murphy.
Norwich are expected to stick with the same group of players who have guided them to their two previous Checkatrade Trophy wins.
Chuks Aneke (knee) and Scott Wootton (knee) remain sidelined.
George Baldock is available after suspension although isn’t expected to feature while Darren Potter and Samir Carruthers, who missed Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup tie with Spennymoor Town, are not to be risked.
Ben Tilney, Oran Jackson, Giorgio Rasulo, Brandon Thomas-Asante and Kabongo Tshimanga are among those youngsters who have featured in the competition, along with the likes of Lee Nicholls, George C Williams and Paul Downing, who have had limited first-team action recently.
Richie Barker’s side will include a mixture of first-teamers and young professionals, with the caretaker manager viewing the game as an opportunity for the younger players to feature.
Ray Grant: “It’s going to be a tough game. They are changing the manager there but I don’t think much will change from them - they’ve always been known as quite a good footballing side. Our main focus is trying to do as well as possible.”
Supporters can also stay in touch with the Dons via mkdons.com’s matchday blog, which can be accessed by visiting the home page from midday.
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A full match report will be available to view on mkdons.com straight after the final whistle.