DONS’ FA Cup campaign got off to a predictably comfortable start as they beat non-League Nantwich Town 6-0 at stadium:mk on Saturday.
The Cheshire side had navigated their way through four qualifying rounds to reach the first round proper for the first time in their 127-year history, and were keen to make the most of their big day out at stadium:mk — giving the hosts one or two scares before Dons’ quality eventually told and they cruised to victory.
Goals from Mathias Doumbe, Dean Bowdtich, Daniel Powell, Jay O’Shea and George Williams made it a relatively easy afternoon’s work for Karl Robinson’s side who go into the hat for Sunday’s second round draw. The Dons boss named a very strong line-up with only captain Dean Lewington the surprise non-inclusion in the squad to take on the side from four divisions below.
Although there never looked likely to be a shock, Nantwich actually began the game very well, causing Dons one or two problems in the opening 10 minutes, but the Northern Premier League outfit failed to test keeper David Martin.
And once Dons got into their stride there was only ever going to be one winner. Bowdtich and Angelo Balanta both tested Nantwich keeper Jon Brain in the first 20 minutes as the visitors held firm, throwing bodies in the way of any threatening effort on goal.
In fact the way Nantwich fell behind on 27 minutes was slightly cruel on the visitors. After struggling to get out of their own half for long periods, the non-Leaguers hit Dons on the break and forced a corner. The delivery was sweet and met well by a Nantwich head, with the ball flying only inches over the crossbar.
However, within seconds Dons had forced them straight back onto the backfoot and won a corner of their own – Mathias Doumbe powerfully heading home.
And less than two minutes later it was 2-0 to the League 1 side when Balanta played in Bowdtich in the 18-yard box and the Dons striker held off a couple of defenders before placing the ball into the bottom corner.
It was all one-way traffic by this stage and Nantwich were lucky to only go in two down at the break. However, there was one moment of concern for Robinson when the visitors countered quickly and only a good block from Doumbe prevented Martin from being called into action – the Dons boss letting his defenders know his feelings about it in no uncertain terms.
Dons got their third goal early in the second half when Bowditch fired home perfectly from a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, but by this time the game was little more than a training session for the hosts.
After a bit of a revival from Nantwich which saw them briefly venture into Dons’ final third, Powell netted neatly low past Brain after a swift counter to make it 4-0 with what proved his final touch of the game as he was replaced by O’Shea.
It was 5-0 on 75 minutes as substitute O’Shea calmly fired out of Brain’s reach with hardly a Nantwich defender in sight. That cued the introduction of two Dons youngsters – Williams, 16, and Brendon Galloway, 15, getting a runout with Charlie MacDonald and Luke Chadwick making way.
In fact both broke Adam Chicksen’s record of being the youngest Dons player to take to the field in a competitive game. The record now belongs to Galloway at 15 years, seven months and 26 days. However, Williams would break his own record before the game was up.
To their credit Nantwich never let their heads drop and seemed determined to snatch a consolation goal, even at the expense of conceding more at the other end.
It never came though and instead the biggest cheer of the afternoon was saved for Williams who was put through and rounded Brain to tap into an empty net in style, becoming the club’s youngest ever goal scorer and sparking great scenes of celebrations including every Dons outfield player.
That was the perfect way to finish a thoroughly entertaining and emphatic first round win, with Williams, Galloway and unused youngsters Leon Lobjoit and Bamidele Alli sent to receive the ovation of the home faithful.