MK Dons will be looking to return to winning ways tonight when they take on Brighton & Hove Albion Under-21s at Stadium MK.
The men from MK1 entertain the Seagulls in their opening group-stage match of this season’s Checkatrade Trophy and a victory this evening would put them in a strong early position to qualify for the knockout stages.
Tonight’s tie is the first of two home matches in the space of four days for Robbie Neilson’s side, who will be looking to build some winning momentum after two disappointing results last week.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm.
Albion are one of 16 Category One Academy teams in this season’s competition and will provide the Dons with a tough early test.
Simon Rusk’s team reached round three of the Checkatrade Trophy last season before they were knocked out by eventual winners Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena.
Their Under-21s squad includes a number of talented young players, some of whom featured in Brighton’s Carabao Cup victory over Barnet last week including the goalscorer James Tilley.
The Dons were beaten 4-1 by Blackburn Rovers on a disappointing afternoon at Ewood Park.
Neilson’s men fell behind to Derrick Williams’ long-range strike after just two minutes but responded through Ed Upson on 25 minutes.
However, Rovers restored their advantage soon after direct from a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick and went on to extend their lead and secure victory in the second-half – Mulgrew and Dominic Samuel adding to the scoreline.
Brighton’s Under-23s side were last in action on Friday night when they entertained Reading at the Amex Stadium.
Rusk’s team were beaten for the first time in 2016/17 after the Royals won 2-1 thanks to goals from Josh Barrett and Jordan Holsgrove.
Barrett’s strike had been cancelled out through Steven Alzate but Holsgrove found the net from distance in the 90th minute to deny the Seagulls.
Dean Lewington: “We need to improve in every area because we're just a little bit off the pace. The fluidity of the game isn't there – it's in fits and bursts. At times we're doing okay, it’s just not for long enough.”
“We've not set the world alight this season and haven't scored many goals but you'd hope, this early on, people aren't getting too down yet and the confidence is still there.”
The Dons are required to name four outfield players who started the preceding fixture; start the following fixture; in the list of the Club’s top ten appearing players for the season; has made 40 or more career starting appearances or is on loan from a Premier League/EFL Club operating a Category 1 Academy.
Therefore expect a number of first-team regulars to feature in tonight’s starting XI although Osman Sow (thigh), Kieran Agard (groin) and Joe Walsh (knee) are unlikely to be risked.
Chuks Aneke (hamstring) remains sidelined.
As an invited club, Brighton are required to name six players in their starting line-up who were under the age of 21 on 30th June 2016.
This meaning Rusk can call upon five members of Chris Hughton’s first-team squad if needed.
Craig Hicks will take charge of tonight’s tie at Stadium MK.
Hicks has refereed four matches already in 2017/18 and brandished eight yellow cards. He has yet to make a sending off.
He has yet to officiate a Dons fixture, with this his first campaign in the EFL.
This evening’s assistant referees are Kevin Morris and Adrian Waters while the fourth official is Keith Stroud.
Dons wins: 4
Dons wins at Stadium MK: 2
Last Dons win: 1-0, 26 Feb 2011 (Stadium MK)
Biggest Dons win: 4-2, 12 Dec 2008 (Withdean Stadium)
Draws at Stadium MK: 1
Last draw: 0-0, 1 May 2010 (Stadium MK)
Brighton wins: 5
Brighton wins at Stadium MK: 1
Last Brighton win: 2-0, 7 Jan 2017 (Amex Stadium)
Biggest Brighton win: 4-1, 1 Nov 2006 (Withdean Stadium)
*Head-to-head stats for Brighton & Hove Albion first team fixtures.
*all odds correct at the time of writing
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A full match report will be available to view on mkdons.com straight after the final whistle.