MK Dons Under-18s progressed through to the Second Round of the FA Youth Cup courtesy of a 1-0 victory over Southend United at Stadium MK.
Jay Bird grabbed the decisive goal for Edu Rubio's team late in the first half, turning home from a Bradley Bell corner.
The deserved victory sets up a Second Round tie away at either Barnet or Wingate & Finchley, who play on Wednesday.
Rubio’s starting XI included a number of recognisable faces, including top goalscorer Dylan Asonganyi as well as the likes of David Kasumu, Finn Tapp and Bird – all of whom have first-team experience this season.
Opponents Southend, who sit one place below the Young Dons in the EFL Youth Alliance League table, threatened early with a seventh-minute header from Zak Pianim.
Both sides enjoyed spells early on in the half but neither side were able to create much in the way of a goalscoring opportunity until Sewa Marah had an effort disallowed for offside on 25 minutes – the Shrimpers winger was a good few yards goal-side of the last Dons defender.
Dylan Asonganyi tested Nathan Bishop with a free-kick on the half-hour mark but the Southend goalkeeper was equal to the curling effort. Shortly afterwards, a vital interception from Taylor Curran prevented Bird connecting with Bell’s pass.
The Dons were beginning to look threatening and Charlie Pattison flashed a 20-yard effort just past the post as they went close once again. The lively Asonganyi then came within a whisker of being one-on-one with the goalkeeper but Matthew Sorinola’s through pass was just an inch or two in front of him.
Rubio’s side eventually took a deserved lead on 37 minutes when Bird stuck out a left leg to turn home a Bell corner – the forward’s effort bounced in off the crossbar, despite appeals from the visitors that the ball didn’t cross the line.
They took that one-goal lead into the break and they carried the momentum into the second period.
Early on they threatened from a Bell cross which was cut out by a defender in front of Asonganyi. They did, though, have Nathan Pickworth to thank for denying Eren Kinali on 53 minutes – the effort was parried into the path of a U’s teammate but Pattison got back well to win the ball and clear.
Just before the hour, Bell flashed a low ball across the face of goal. Liam Sole then came agonisingly close to doubling the lead with a right-footed strike from inside the area that fell just wide of the post.
Rubio introduced Recoe Martin and Joe Evans to give his side more energy at the top end of the pitch, as the game entered its final quarter. The latter of those substitutes fired a shot wide of the right post soon after coming on, as the Dons pushed for an insurance goal.
Despite dominating the majority of the second half, hearts were in the mouths with four minutes to play when Jon Benton curled a free-kick onto Pickworth’s right upright. The ball ricocheted into the area but the Dons were able to get it clear.
Kinali later flashed a left-footed shot past the post but the Dons were able to see out the remainder of the contest - they even came close to extending their lead deep into stoppage time through Asonganyi, who shot wide from 20-yards out.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Pickworth; Ackom, Tapp (c), Hope, Sorinola; Pattison, Kasumu; Bell (Wright 90+1), Bird (Martin 71), Sole (Evans 76); Asonganyi.
Unused subs: Jones, Hourican-Harvey.
Goal: Bird (37)