WITH all the talk before the game being about their FA Cup second round opponents, Dons kept up their end of the bargain by cruising past Cambridge City in an entertaining 6-1 win at stadium:mk.
First half goals from Shaun Williams, Jay O’Shea and Dean Bowditch effectively settled the first round replay on Tuesday night, setting Dons up with an historic home clash against AFC Wimbledon in the first weekend of December.
A second half penalty from Williams, and strikes from youngster Dele Alli and Adam Chicksen – all in the space of three minutes - completed a predictably resounding victory, but City did have something to cheer about as defender Dave Theobold headed home from close range.
Starting with Charlie MacDonald and Ryan Lowe up front, Dons also handed a start to 16-year-old Alli who impressed in a commanding midfield performance as the hosts hardly let their Evo-Stik League Premier Division opponents touch the ball for lengthy periods.
As expected Dons dominated possession throughout, almost toying with their non-league visitors who kept 10 men behind the ball whenever possible, but without pressing Dons as much as perhaps they could have.
And that tactic cost them on 11 minutes when Williams took advantage of the space afforded to him to unleash an unstoppable drive from all of 40 yards straight past a stunned Zac Barrett. After 10 minutes of attack versus defence, it was probably going to take something special to break the deadlock, and it was.
Try as they might, City were unable to get out of their own half, and Lowe was the next to go close for Dons when his low drive was cleared by City player coach Adrian Cambridge when it looked destined for the bottom corner.
Dons were happy to take aim from distance, and O’Shea was the next to try his luck from outside the penalty area, only to see his well-struck curling effort fly narrowly over the crossbar.
Dons controlled the game from the edge of City’s own penalty area, knocking the ball around with ease and being urged to shoot by the home fans from anywhere within 30 yards of goal, something that O’Shea in particular was happy to oblige with. Bowditch and Stephen Gleeson also saw efforts fizz just wide.
It look 37 minutes before David Martin was called into any sort of action, getting down quick to collect an over hit through ball into his penalty area. Normal service was quickly resumed at the other end as Dons continued to dominate and probe for a second goal, with youngster Alli pulling the strings in the middle of the park. Showing great awareness, he sprayed effortless passes all over the field, stretching an already tired looking City defence.
O’Shea’s quest to get on the scoresheet was eventually achieved two minutes before the break when he skipped past two defenders and neatly slotted past Barrett. And 2-0 quickly became 3-0 in first half stoppage time as Bowditch deservedly added his name to the scoresheet, mopping up Barrett’s save from a fierce Lowe effort, to settle the contest after 45 minutes.
They may have been overwhelmed, but City were not disgraced as they began the second half with one or two ventures into the Dons half, but without really troubling Martin. Lowe should have added a fourth Dons goal 10 minutes into the second half, but he couldn’t react quickly enough to get a shot away before being closed down.
Williams then powered another long range effort against the post as City just about managed to prevent the floodgates from opening. Instead it was the visitors who scored as Theobold converted Luke Allen’s cross to send the visiting fans wild. Their chant of ‘one shot and we scored a goal’ was met with a few chuckles around stadium:mk.
That goal put an extra spring back in City’s step and they continued to throw bodies in front of Dons shots to keep the scoreline looking respectable. Chicksen, Giorgio Rasulo and Brendan Galloway all got game time in the second half, while City’s replaced players left the pitch with an equally appreciative round of applause from the Dons fans for their efforts.
Dean Lewington tested Barrett’s reflexes again with 20 minutes to play as the hosts began to get slightly frustrated in front of goal, reminded by the City fans that it was ‘one nil in the second half’.
It wasn’t for long though as Chicksen was taken down in the penalty area and Williams coolly tucked the spot-kick out of Barrett’s reach to make it 4-1 with a quarter of an hour left to play.
The goal of the night then followed 60 seconds later when Alli topped a fantastic individual performance by hitting the back of the net from the best part of 30 yards. And to complete a remarkable period of play, Chicksen scored his first goal for the club with another fabulous strike from just inside the box, making it three goals in three minutes.
Shortly after that Alli was replaced to a standing ovation from the home fans, with fellow youngster Galloway coming on to enjoy the occasion for the last few minutes.
A contest it wasn’t, entertaining it was.