MK Dons claimed a 2-0 victory over Flackwell Heath, courtesy of goals from Darragh Burns and Tommy Blennerhasset, which secured their progression into the semi-final of the Berks & Bucks County Cup competition.
MK Dons named a fresh starting XI, which included a mix of academy and first-team players. To name a few, Max Dean, Darragh Burns and Franco Ravizzoli started alongside Callum Tripp, Joel Anker and Charlie Waller within the quarter-final stage of the competition.
The hosts earned the first corner of the match within the opening stages. A ball delivered into the area was cleared as far as Flackwell’s number eight, whose shot was blocked by a plethora of MK Dons bodies.
Albert Wood received an early caution after his late challenge on the opposition’s winger.
Minutes later, Phoneix Scholtz joined his fellow full-back in the book. A mistimed slide tackle ensured that the referee reached for his pocket.
MK Dons’ first opportunity of the half arose on the 16-minute mark. Albert Wood found Lewis Johnson in the middle of the field and the number seven’s flick picked out the run of Max Dean. However, Dean’s cross which followed was cleared.
A counter-attacking chance seemed dangerous for the Dons, although a strong tackle against Darragh Burns prevented any further danger. The referee gave Flackwell Heath’s captain a yellow card for the offence. The free-kick that followed eventually generated a shot which hit the outside netting.
Burns’ electric speed allowed the winger to blow-past his defender, this granted the number 11 to deliver a cross towards Dean. The forward had picked out the bottom-corner with his attempt at goal, although a hand-ball was given against him and the goal was disallowed.
The opposition’s goalkeeper was forced into his first save of the night. A close-range chance had to be prevented by Jack Brooker, who did his part and stopped what could’ve been the opener.
A pre-planned substitution commenced half an hour into the fixture, Liam Mann replaced Callum Tripp.
On the 35-minute mark Darragh Burns broke the deadlock. A fantastic half-volley crafted from Joel Anker found the chest of Max Dean, who matched Anker’s creativity with a back-heel into the path of Burns. The winger made no mistake as he kept his composure and placed the ball past Brooker. 0-1
Minutes before the interval, Franco Ravizzoli produced a brilliant finger-tip save to deny an equaliser on-the-end of a Heathen’s free-kick. A vital touch from the keeper’ diverted the ball onto the crossbar, which was then later cleared.
John Bitting’s side held their lead as the teams entered the break.
A sharp start from the Dons allowed them to play on the front-foot with more possession of the ball.
Max Dean displayed his tenacity and chased down a ball, which allowed the forward to create a shooting chance. Dean cut inside and fired goalward, but his effort was matched by the host’s defence.
Opposite to the first 45 minutes, MK Dons had domination over the ball and searched to play it around a seemingly tired Flackwell side.
On the hour-mark, the home team made their first two changes of the game. Captain Jamie Essex, who was on a caution was switched out for Callum Mapley. Mugoya-Tabingwa, who arguably had the best chance for Flackwell made way for Aiden Higgs.
Conor Grant’s trickery eliminated multiple Heathens from the game, the number ten cut-back the ball into a great area. However, the lack of white shirts made the chance difficult to convert.
With 67 minutes on the stopwatch, Flackwell Heath hit the woodwork. A chipped attempt had Ravizzoli beaten, but the ball’s descent was cut-short by the crossbar. Charlie Waller was alert to kick the ball away from the goalmouth.
Burns came close to his second, the ball eventually found the feet of the winger following a scuffle in the opposition’s area. The Irishmen unleashed a curled attempt with his left boot, but the ball raised a little too high over the target.
The hosts had dug deep to continue their pursuit for equaliser, but as ten minutes remained, MK Dons still held the advantage.
The fixture entered the closing stages and Dean had a strike from range, his effort dragged wide of the left-post.
Mere minutes remained and the Heathens had hit the crossbar for the second time within the half, a total of three overall within the game. Another headed attempt had troubled the travelling team, but the woodwork squander their hopes of a late equaliser.
Tommy Blennerhassett then delt the final blow and secured victory for the Dons. The home team committed everybody into a last-ditch attempt that conjured from a corner. John Bitting’s side used this chance to counter and Blennerhassett broke free, the forward made no mistake as he finished his strike from the middle of the field into an open net. 0-2
Darragh Burns’ opener followed by Tommy Blennerhassett’s late goal separated the two sides. MK Dons had held onto their lead, which secured their progression into the semi-final of the tournament.
MK Dons: Ravizzoli (C), Wood, Scholtz (Boyce 90), Stirland, Waller, Tripp (Mann 30), Johnson (Blennerhassett 80), Anker, Dean, Grant, Burns
Subs: Blennerhassett, Daffern, Adepoju
Goals: Burns 35, Blennerhassett 90+5
Yellow cards: Wood 3, Scholtz 7
Flackwell Heath: Brooker, Avery, Coles (Fraser 69), Essex (C) (Mapley 60), Eaton (Driffill 72), Pryor, Mugoya-Tabingwa (Higgs 60), Ayres, Cameron, Shakespeare, Ayres