DONS put their name into the third round hat with a gritty 3-1 victory over Barnet at Underhill.
After a dogged opening half hour, Darren Potter fired Dons into the lead with his first goal for the club, before Charlie MacDonald rounded the Bees keeper midway through the second half, doubling Dons’ advantage. Izale McLeod pulled one back for Barnet with four minutes to go, which threatened to set up a thrilling finale to the otherwise unglamorous cup tie, but Daniel Powell restored Dons two goal lead 60 seconds later to wrap up the win.
Karl Robinson didn’t make as many changes to his starting line-up as expected, though Adam Smith and Gary MacKenzie returned in the defence, while Stephen Gleeson and Luke Chadwick were rested in midfield. George Williams, goalscorer in the last round against Nantwich, was named among the substitutes along with 15-year-old Bamidele Alli.
Still Dons’ all time leading goalscorer, Barnet striker Izale McLeod reminded the away support what they had missed since his departure in the summer of 2007 when he raced onto a short Adam Smith back pass after just four minutes. But he was beaten to it by David Martin who initially hesitated before clearing from the edge of the penalty area. McLeod tested the keeper again two minutes later when he shot from range, but it was straight at the stopper.
While Dons looked comfortable going forward in the opening 10 minutes, it was the home team that threatened to score the opener when Sam Deering got on the end of Mark Marshall’s deep cross from the left, but the forward couldn’t direct his header wide of Martin, who saved above his head.
In the attacking third, Dons looked as though they wanted to walk the ball in, with too many intricate touches in the penalty area to create a clear-cut chance. Jabo Ibehre’s powerful shot from the byline after 11 minutes was the only save Bees keeper Dean Brill had to make in the early stages.
The game ebbed from end to end, with chances for both sides, though neither keeper was really called into action. Dean Bowditch had two bites of the cherry with a free kick, though both hit the wall, and Mark Byrne’s dangerous looking set-piece on 20 minutes was pinging around the penalty area before Martin was fouled as he went to catch it. The keeper though, worryingly, picked up a knock but initially played on. He would eventually be replaced by Ian McLoughlin.
Dons were just beginning to get the upper hand in the attacking stakes when Bowditch went close again, before Angelo Balanta forced a finger-tip save from Brill from the edge of the box.
But it was Barnet and McLeod that should have opened the scoring in the 29th minute. Capitalising on a MacKenzie misjudgement, McLeod raced through on goal only to fire well wide of the target, letting the returning Scottish defender off the hook, but lifting the home fans in the process.
Unusually, Dons were getting over-run in the midfield by their League 2 opponents. Clovis Kamdjo and skipper Mark Hughes seemed to have the edge over Shaun Williams and Darren Potter as they tried to play their passing game.
But when it all came together, it was Potter who was on hand to fire Dons into a 38th minute lead with a powerful low shot from the edge of the box, nestling neatly into the bottom corner past the helpless Brill, notching up his first goal for the club.
Barnet came close to finding an equaliser two minutes before the break when McLeod again showed quick feet to get space in the box before a brilliant tackle from Tom Flanagan averted the danger, but it was enough to keep hold of the lead until half time.
It wasn’t quite the usual rip-roaring Dons that came out to start the second half, but they comfortable and well in control of the tie. Charlie MacDonald should have done better when he spun his man on the edge of the area, and could have slipped Balanta through but for a last-ditch intervention from Deering, winning a free kick for the Bees in the process.
Barnet enjoyed a series of corners, penning Dons in their own penalty area, but they couldn’t force the issue, or McLoughlin into making a save. The best chance of the half came from a Dons break on the hour mark – Bowditch raced down the left flank and spotting MacDonald alone in the centre, played the ball low but it was just out of reach of the former-Brentford man.
Barnet nearly produced a carbon copy of Dons’ earlier break, and were looking at a four-on-three advantage, but Smith showed an excellent turn of pace to beat Marshall to the ball.
The half dragged on with few chances created at either end and neither keeper really forced into making a meaningful save. Things threatened to liven up when Shaun Williams hit the base of the post with a shot with 15 minutes remaining. McLeod reminded the travelling Dons fans of the frustration he used to cause when he wasted a three-on-one chance by going alone.
But Dons went straight up the other end, and Potter’s pinpoint pass found MacDonald in the area, who neatly rounded Brill to fire the visitors into a two goal lead.
Dons were now well in control, and were able to withdraw the influential Potter and MacDonald before the end. Dean Lewington put a free kick narrowly past Brill’s upright
But four minutes from time, Barnet earned themselves a lifeline. Deering’s shot from the edge of the area came through a crowd of bodies, forcing McLoughlin to make a great low stop, but the rebound fell to McLeod, who fired in from the tightest of angles, pulling the score back to 2-1.
But it took Dons less than 60 seconds to restore their two goal advantage and put their name into the third round hat when Lewington intercepted in midfield and spotted substitute Daniel Powell racing through. Running from half-way, Powell lashed the ball past Brill to put the result beyond doubt.
This didn’t stop Barnet pouring forward though, with McLoughlin pulling off a magnificent save at full-stretch from Kamdjo’s header at the death.
Referee: Robert Lewis
Attendance: 2,608 (912)
Barnet: Brill, Senda, Hughes (Holmes, 46), Byrne (Baseya, 63), Deering, Hector, Saville, Marshall, Kamdjo, McLeod, Downing
Subs not used: Parkes, Uddin, Borrowdale, O’Brien, N’Diaye
MK Dons: Martin (McLoughlin, 34), Smith, Lewington, MacKenzie, Flanagan, Potter (Chicksen, 81), S Williams, Bowditch, Balanta, MacDonald (Powell, 83), Ibehre
Subs not used: Doumbe, O’Shea, G Williams, Alli
Booked: MacKenzie, Marshall, Flanagan, Deering, McLeod