MK Dons Under-16s endured a difficult start to 2017 as they lost 4-1 to Gillingham at Woughton-on-the-Green on Saturday morning.
The visitors started brightly and Dons keeper Alfie Jones made a smart early save to deny the Gills an opening goal from a free-kick.
In the tenth minute, the visitors did open the scoring when a flicked through-ball found their number ten inside the box who slotted the ball low into the right corner of the net – 1-0.
The Dons threatened a few minutes later when good interplay between Dylan Asonganyi and Bird saw the latter have a shot which was saved by the keeper.
The Gills doubled their lead on 20 minutes when a cross from the left side was finished from close range by a Gills player who had got away from his marker – 2-0.
Two minutes later, the challenge facing the under-16s increased when the visitors netted a third after a through ball caused problems at the back for the Dons. With keeper Jones out of goal, the ball bounced nicely for a blue shirt to head into an unguarded net – 3-0.
The Dons pulled a goal back five minutes later after good build-up involving the lively Asonganyi led to a cross from the left which evaded the keeper and fell to Bird who finished into the net to make the score 3-1.
The Under-16s were growing into the game and they could have cut the deficit further before the break when a good square ball from Sam Philpott found Asonganyi inside the box, however the striker was off balance and he could only shoot wide of the right post.
Despite the Dons being two goals behind at the break they had showed a lot of attacking promise, although the visitors would have extended their lead early in the second period however a Gills player missed the target when he was through on the Dons keeper.
The hosts used their full quota of five substitutes in the second half however they couldn’t find a goal and on 72 minutes Gillingham put the game to bed from the penalty spot. Despite Jones getting a hand to the ball the penalty had too much power on it and the Gills restored their three goal advantage.
Despite the deficit on the scoreboard, the Dons finished the game on the front foot with some good passages of play. Their best late chance came on 77 minutes when Asonganyi produced a good powerful run and held off a couple of visiting players before unleashing a shot which required a good save.
The Under-18s were due to face the Gills simultaneously however their fixture with the Kent side had to be re-arranged for this coming Tuesday due to Gillingham’s FA Youth Cup commitments.
After the match, Under-16s coach John Bitting said: “We played well in parts today but I felt we were sloppy in certain areas. I thought Gillingham did really well today. They played good football and scored a good goal in the first half.
“I thought we grew into the game and in the second half the boys had more bite about them and showed the way they could play. It was a shame that we didn’t take some of the good chances we created. We got into good positions and it was unfortunate that we didn’t finish the moves off.”
Starting XI (4-2-1-2-1): Jones: Robinson, Rahman (Rose 68), Hourican-Harvey, Freeman: Pattison (Bonsu 51), Richardson: Jackson (Williamson 63): Bird (Holmes 51), Philpott (Wright 51): Asonganyi.
Goal: Bird (25).