Neilson heaps praise on 'phenomenal' Aneke

Chuks Aneke
Chuks Aneke

Robbie Neilson was delighted to see Chuks Aneke come through his first start unscathed in Dons' Checkatrade Trophy match against Stevenage on Tuesday night.

Aneke played for 45 minutes at Stadium MK - his first start since the end of February - after returning from a hamstring injury picked up at Bradford last season.

Having made his first team return in a six minute cameo at Bury on Saturday, Neilson believes the 24-year-old is nearing a return to regular appearances for the club but has saw encouraging signs against Stevenage.

"Chuks was phenomenal for the first 45 minutes," he said. "We're absolutely delighted. He was the best player by a country mile for those 45 minutes. We were going to give him half an hour, but after looking at how much ground he covered, we could get another 15 minutes out of him.

"He wanted to come back out in the second half, but we didn't want to risk it after 15 minutes sitting down.

"We're really pleased, he's really happy too because he's over that psychological hurdle of getting that first team start again. We'll prepare him now for Saturday."

Other than Aneke's performance, there was little in the way of action during the 90 minutes as the game ended 0-0, before the game went to penalties. Aidan Nesbitt, Ryan Seager, Conor McGrandles, Sam Nombe and Brandon Thomas-Asante all netted in the shootout to pick up the extra point for Dons.

While he had more experienced players on the field, Neilson said he felt it was important for the younger players to take on the pressures of the shootout.

He said: "Although there wasn't a huge crowd here, there was a bit of pressure on the kids to score the penalties. I asked who wanted to take one, and everyone said yes, so I decided to let the younger players take them to see if they could handle it and they did.

"I was also really pleased none of them tried anything daft like a chip - they were all professional finishes.

"It was a good run out for some of the younger lads and the players who haven't played much recently. For the first 20, maybe 30 minutes we played really well and we didn't get the goals we deserved. After that, the standard came down and we needed to try and lift it. But it became pretty flat in the second half when we started to tire.

"But it was a good run out, and it was an experience for the younger lads who didn't get on, like Dylan and Jay, just being around the first team set up.

"This competition is great for giving people game time. It's another game we have to deal with but it's an opportunity for these kids to play."