John Bitting’s boys produced an incredible comeback to secure their place in the semi-final stage of the EFL Youth Alliance League Cup.
MK Dons Under-18s battled against Portsmouth for a place within the final four teams of the knockout tournament. The away side claimed an early two-goal lead, but that didn’t stop the young Dons in their pursuit for victory.
Due to their work experience terms, Joel Anker, Tommy Blennerhasset and Charlie Waller were all available and named in the starting XI for this cup tie.
MK Dons fell victim to their slow start within the first 45 minutes. John Bitting’s boys failed to get a grasp of the game, which the travelling side used to their advantage.
Portsmouth netted the opener, which then granted them the momentum to double their lead in quick succession. The young Dons first 45-minute showing left a lot to be rectified in the second half of the clash. Pompey led by two goals as the teams headed into the break.
The home side seemed to use the interval to reset themselves and overturn their performance. Within ten minutes of the second half start, Tommy Blennerhasset’s header halved the deficit with a goal that could turn the game on its head. 1-2
MK Dons had the momentum swing in their favour, which they used in the hope to progress within the competition as the match entered the final 30 minutes of play.
The hosts then levelled the score-line through Edwin Daffern on the 68-minute mark. Joel Anker’s free-kick crashed off the post and fell into the path of the number 15, who fired the ball home. The young Dons, who were seeking an equaliser, now sought to cement their place in the semi-final. 2-2
The home side drastically improved and controlled the game for the majority of the second half. Ten minutes remained and MK Dons demonstrated their fight and desire to progress in spectacular fashion.
80 minutes displayed on the stopwatch and John Bitting’s boys were awarded with a free-kick in Pompey’s final-third. Phoenix Scholtz delivered an in-swinging ball, but the travelling team dealt with the initial danger.
Although the free-kick was cleared, John Bitting’s boys were eager enough to react to the second-ball. This gave Jediah Bombo a chance to unleash a rocket of a shot from outside the area.
The shot was covered by numerous bodies and the ball deflected pass Pompey’s goalie, who had already committed the wrong way. The Young Dons erupted in celebration as they managed to overturn a two-goal deficit. 3-2
MK Dons then controlled the game in the final stages and secured their place in the semi-final of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup through an incredible comeback.
Lead Professional Development Phase Coach John Bitting said “The boys were excellent in the second half - I was really pleased with how they reacted to what was asked of them during the break. They were aggressive, they were on the front foot, they played high-up the pitch and that made it hard for Portsmouth to play against.
“The first half wasn’t like that, we were too easily beaten and conceded two early goals as a result. But within the second 45 minutes, they were excellent.
I was really pleased and really proud of the boys, I feel like they drew on what they learnt throughout the week. They showed real character, desire and grit, I was really pleased for all of them.”
MK Dons: French, Scholtz, Pickering (Boyce 23), Stirland (Anderson 45), Wood, Waller, Bombo, Tripp, Blennerhassett (Olaleye 87), Anker, Adepoju (Daffern 62)
Goals: Blennerhasset 52 (Scholtz A), Daffern 68 (Anker A), Bombo 80 (Waller A)