MK Dons booked their place in Round Two of the Carabao Cup courtesy of a 2-0 victory away at Sky Bet Championship side Watford.
Goals in each half from Matthew Dennis and Darragh Burns - both firsts for the Club - earned Liam Manning's men a place in the third-round as his side claimed a Championship scalp in front of over 1,700 travelling supporters in Hertfordshire.
Daniel Harvie and Will Grigg both started as MK Dons made seven changes from their previous fixture at Stadium MK. Matt Smith, Louie Barry, Darragh Burns, Dawson Devoy and Zak Jules were also placed in to the starting XI. Nathan Holland and Callum Tripp were amongst the nine substitutes.
MK Dons looked calm and composed within the opening five minutes, Watford were awarded a free-kick in the Dons’ final-third, but it didn’t amount to any danger. However, Smith’s ball towards Lawrence on the other end looked threatening as Joseph Hungbo scrambled to clear it out of his area.
Oyegoke stood strong to protect the ball after he shrugged two Watford players away from him. The ball was then fed into the path of Barry, who blazed past Troost-Ekong on the left side of the box and got his shot away at Maduka Okoye’s near post. The goalkeeper quickly got down to the stop the strike.
The Hornets won a corner on the end of their in-swinging free-kick, O’hora dealt with the ball into the box. Liam Manning’s men then counter-attacked with Grigg running in behind, the number nine was unable to get a close-range shot away after Troost-Ekong rapidly covered across the striker. 20 Minutes had gone, and MK Dons were the only team to have registered a shot on target.
Devoy had an oppurtunity, but the number 28 was thrown off balance as he struck the ball, making a comfortable save for Okoye, down by his left post. The Dons looked strong within the 25 minutes played and kept the ball well in possession.
Hungbo fired a ball into the MK Dons box, but it flew over the heads of all the players. Vakoun Bayo struck from a few yards away, after the ball landed into his path within the six-yard box. Jamie Cumming, produced his first save, and a crucial one in order to keep the score line level 15 minutes before the interval.
Yaser Asprilla surged a ball through, but Cumming was quick off his line to prevent any further danger. The keeper was then called upon soon after, but he made a comfortable catch from the Hornet’s attempt. Watford seemed to gain the upper hand and continued to apply pressure ten minutes before the break.
On the 38-minute mark Will Grigg was substituted for Matt Dennis, a planned substitution for the number nine, who had recently come back from an injury.
Fluent link-up play occurred between Harvie and Barry before the number 21 picked out Dennis, unfortunately the strikers touch failed to see him get a clear opportunity.
GOAL! MK Dons took the lead through substitute Matt Dennis! The ball fell to the striker, who picked out Darragh Burns on the left-flank. Burns carried the ball until he fired it across goal where Dennis slid in to convert the chance. Unfortunately, the number 30 seemed in discomfort after he collided against the post in order to score, but Dennis re-entered the field after being treated. Three minutes were added after the goal on the 45-minute mark.
Warren O’Hora received a yellow card for a late challenge which prevented a Hornet’s counter-attack.
The second-half began and there were no further changes from MK Dons, however Hansa Choudhury entered the field in place of Edo Kayembe for the home side.
Watford won an early free-kick which was delivered to Ekong, who headed wide. The Dons responded with a ball in from Burns, which was just out of reach from Harvie on the back-post.
GOAL! Darragh Burns doubled the lead! Devoy received the ball on the left of the Hornet’s half, the number 28 then picked out his fellow Irishmen in the middle. Burns used his blistering speed to create enough space for a shot that blazed into the bottom-right corner of the net. MK Dons led 2-0, 53 minutes into the game.
Bayo has an audacious attempt from range, but Cumming smothered the ball and dealt with the threat.
The number 19 for Watford was involved again after he fired a ball towards Rey Manaj, the number nine’s header resulted in a comfortable catch for MK Dons’ number one.
Devoy’s trickery allowed him to feint Gosling the wrong way, this created space for the number 28 to run into before he released a shot that went over the crossbar.
Oyegoke crafted a dangerous ball into the box which the Watford keeper had to palm away. Unfortunately, Okoye got a strong enough hand to the ball which ensured that Kemp couldn’t latch onto the rebound. Devoy tried his luck on the half-volley, but his attempt on the edge of the area flew over the bar.
Two fast-break attacks occurred at both ends of the field, Watford defended well enough to stop Kemp in his stride, whereas Tucker was strong in our final-third to shield off Manaj. The referee waved away Watford’s penalty claims after Tucker's challenge. The number four displayed his heroics again, after he prevented any further danger from Sema’s ball into the area.
The referee awarded Devoy a yellow card. Oyegoke also received a yellow after he brought down Hungbo. Ten minutes of the fixture remained, Robson and Holland entered the field.
Watford pressed the attack and although desperate, MK Dons defended well to keep the hosts from halving the deficit.
Great play created from Oyegoke, who asserted his strength once again. This allowed the number 12 to find Kemp, the winger tried to curl it home with his left boot, but Okoye denied him.
Liam Manning’s men looked to see out the game after they entered the final five minutes of play.
Prior to the match, Watford had conceded the least goals at home whilst being unbeaten in their 2022/23 campaign. MK Dons saw the game out until the final whistle and claimed a 2-0 victory over the Hornets.
MK Dons: Cumming, O’Hora, Smith, Grigg (Dennis 38), Oyegoke, Barry (Kemp 64), Burns (Holland 78), Harvie (Tucker 64), Lawrence, Devoy (Robson 78), Jules
Subs: Ravizolli, Ilunga, Gyamfi, Tripp
Goals: Dennis 45, Burns 54
Watford: Okoye, Gaspar, Troost-Ekong, Manaj, Catchcart (Sema 59), Gosling, Asprilla (Blake 72), Bayo, Pollock (Morris 80), Hungbo (Sierralta 80), Kayembe (Choudhury 45)
Subs: Hamer, Kabasele, Forde, Blake, Delyfer