MK Dons’ young players can hold their heads high, said manager Karl Robinson, after his side were beaten 4-2 on penalties by Reading at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night.
Dean Bowditch fired Dons into the lead from the penalty spot in the first half, before the first of Callum Harriott’s brace sent the tie to extra time. Harriott’s second seven minutes from the end of extra time appeared to be enough to send his side through, but Kabongo Tshimanga’s brilliant solo strike ensured the game would go the distance.
But missed spot kicks from first teamers Ben Reeves and Samir Carruthers gave Jordan Obita the opportunity to smash home the decisive spot kick.
With Jaap Stam’s side aiming for a top 10 finish in the Championship this season, Robinson said he was nothing but proud of his young side, whose average age was just 21 at kick off.
“We came here with kids,” he said. “There’s no disgrace to be beaten on penalties to a team what have ambitions to finish in the top 10 of the Championship.
“I’m really proud of the players who turned up to play in the right way today against a very good Reading side who have ambitions of finishing in the top half of the Championship. We looked composed and disciplined.
“We knew we’d have to play differently to how we usually do. Reading got booed a few times, but they dominated. I’m a massive advocate of Jaap Stam’s style, but we just looked fitter than they did in the second half.”
Reeves hit the post and Ed Upson hit the crossbar in extra time as Dons looked to force the issue before Reading scored their second as Dons looked the better side.
And having missed one on Saturday against Rochdale, Reeves thumped the bar Dons’ second in the shoot-out to leave them trailing.
The performance in the shoot-out though wasn’t a concern for the manger.
Robinson added: “They weren’t great penalties but it is what it is. My thought process over the 120 minutes was how the players conducted themselves and they all deserve a pat on the back. We’re out of the cup but we’re out in the right way.
“I thought we were the better team in extra time, but we denied them space for 90 minutes. It was a really enthralling game and a pressure free environment for us to come and perform. The players did a wonderful job.”