MK Dons Under-18s booked their place in Round Two of the Emirates FA Cup thanks to a 2-0 extra-time victory over Northampton ON Chenecks.
The Young Dons were dominant but had to wait until the 96th minute to find a breakthrough, which came courtesy of Tommy Blennerhassett’s close-range finish.
Substitute Edwin Daffern then found the net with an audacious long-range effort late in the tie, securing his side a trip to Southend United in Round Two.
Bitting’s starting line-up including young professional Ronnie Sandford, who was eligible to feature under the terms of his loan to Hertford Town. Also in the XI was Callum Tripp, who made his first-team debut earlier this season in the Papa John’s Trophy.
The Dons had an early shout for penalty turned down by the referee – Joel Anker the player who felt he had been fouled inside the box. Josh Adepoju then forced the first save of the game from the edge of the area with a terrific strike that was pushed around the post.
With a quarter of an hour played, Charlie Waller headed over from a corner as the Dons continued to threaten an early opening goal. ON Chenecks then had their first attempt but Sandford watched the shot fly over his crossbar.
A neat passing move almost led to a chance for the Dons soon after but Anker’s low cross was well-dealt with by the home goalkeeper, who dove out to prevent Tommy Blennerhassett from meeting the delivery.
On 25 minutes, Sandford was tested from range following a vital tackle from Jacob Anderson, to deal with a dangerous cross into the area. The Dons broke forward again moments later but Albert Wood’s low ball in from the left was behind Blennerhassett.
The Dons’ next attack saw Adepoju have a header deflected wide from Pickering’s looping cross. ON Chenecks went even closer on the half-hour but the low left-footed effort trickled wide.
With 11 minutes to play in the half, Corvell Pickering tried his luck after cutting in from the left flank. His 18-yard strike was a fierce one but the wing-back ultimately couldn’t keep his effort down.
The final chance of the first half fell the way of Phoenix Scholtz but he couldn’t find the target from the right-hand side of the penalty area. The first in the second was via Tripp – he, too, wasn’t able to test the ON Chenecks keeper from range.
Pickering did force a save from his curling effort on 52 minutes. That proved to be one of his final involvements as he was replaced by Kyle Boyce shortly after the hour.
The Dons scrambled clear a free-kick which was sent into their box with 69 minutes played while, at the other end, substitute Ed Daffern fired into the side netting with a free-kick of his own.
With three minutes left to play in the 90, Bitting’s side worked a great opportunity for Daffern but he, after collecting Anker’s pass, saw his right-footed shot stopped by the ON Chenecks goalkeeper.
Adepoju had one final attempt to prevent the tie going to extra-time but his near post header was off target. The Dons then survived a corner from the hosts in stoppage-time – one which saw a looping land on the roof of the net.
The contest was extended by half an hour and in third minute of additional time, Sandford watched an 18-yard try curl over his crossbar. He then saw his opposite number deny Blennerhassett at close-range almost immediately.
Daffern bent an effort just past the post with the Dons’ next go on goal but Bitting’s young side were, eventually, able to make their domination count with six minutes played in extra-time.
Threatening down the left, Boyce was able to deliver a low cross into a crowded penalty and onto the boot of Blennerhassett who did just enough to direct the ball past the goalkeeper and into the bottom right-hand corner. 0-1.
ON Chenecks threatened an equaliser just before the interval but the Dons were able to deal with a teasing corner delivery, after a 20-yard drive had deflected just past Sandford’s post.
Daffern had the opportunity to double the lead soon after the re-start but the difficult surface meant he was forced to hit a bouncing ball towards goal – as a result, he got under his effort and lifted it over the crossbar.
While he wasn’t able to find the target from 15 yards, he was able to do so from 40-plus, sealing the tie with an audacious long-range strike over a stranded ON Chenecks goalkeeper eight minutes from time. 0-2.
The hosts did go close to pulling a goal back almost immediately but somehow failed to convert at the far post from a left-wing cross. The Dons saw that threat through, as well as the remaining minutes that followed, to secure their place in Round Two.
MK Dons Under-18s: Sandford; Wood, Anderson, Waller; Scholtz (Daffern 75), Tripp, Bombo Mann (101), Pickering (Boyce 62); Anker; Blennerhassett (Olaleye 105), Adepoju.
Subs: Stacey, Lucas, Troso.
Goal: Blennerhassett (96), Daffern (112)