Dele Alli was the name on everybody’s lips once again as he scored his first professional hat-trick in Dons’ 3-1 victory over Notts County.
County had already hit the crossbar by the time the 17-year-old proved his worth after just two minutes as he capitalised on a loose ball in the area to fire Dons into the lead. But Dons missed a host of first half chances before Alli doubled his and Dons’ tally eight minutes in to the second half.
A dubiously awarded penalty saw County given an unjustified lifeline, and as they pushed forwards in stoppage time, Dons broke once again and Alli completed his hat-trick to win it for Dons.
Karl Robinson made two changes to the side which snatched a late victory at the County Ground in Swindon on Saturday - Daniel Powell replaced injured Larnell Cole, while Ben Reeves missed out with a hamstring problem but was replaced by returning Stephen Gleeson.
Few could have predicted the start to the game, which saw County hit the woodwork at one end, and Dons take the lead at the other - all in just 120 seconds.
With less than 20 on the clock, a loose Dean Lewington pass went straight to Callum McGregor, whose eyes lit up in front of goal, though David Martin was alert to his early threat, tipping the ball around the post and out for a corner.
But no-one picked up Hayden Mullins in the middle, and he let Dons off the hook as he met the ball on the half-volley, only to see it crash off the crossbar.
And as County slowly tracked back, they were hit on the counter and found themselves a game behind. A long ball up to Izale McLeod found its way to Dele Alli over his shoulder, and the youngster proved cool under pressure, bending the ball round Bartosz Bialkowski to put Dons in front.
It could’ve been 2-0 by the 10 minute mark when McLeod wormed space for him self, but Bialkowski did well to keep out his 20 yard effort.
The pace of the game barely let off in the opening half an hour, but both defences looked extremely cagey. County played with a very high line, and found themselves on the wrong end of a three-on-one attack, but Alan Sheehan’s perfectly timed interception stopped Sanmi Odelusi or McLeod from reaching Daniel Powell’s ball across.
At the other end, Dons too were playing a high line, but looked nervous when putting a foot in, allowing Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Nathan Tyson space to shoot, but to no avail.
Having suffered from patchy form since his return to first team action, Powell looked dangerous on the attack for Dons, but should have done much better in front of goal when he twisted defender Manny Smith one way then the next in carving himself an opening, but made life easy for Bialkowski as he rolled it towards the far corner.
Dons could have been high and dry by half time, but weren’t as another chance went begging 10 minutes before the break. Dean Leacock did his goalkeeper no favours after a great interception on the edge of his area. His half-hit back pass was too short and allowed McLeod a sight of goal - Bialkowski again though was a match for the tame strike. Leacock barely lasted another minute as he was hauled off by manager Shaun Derry.
The second half started in a similar, breathless fashion as Tyson capitalised on some more sluggish Dons defending to nip in on goal, only to have Martin quickly smother the ball at his feet.
And it wasn’t long before Dons echoed their first half exploits by doubling the lead. Yet more horrible defending from the home side saw Powell pick Manny Smith’s pocket on half way, allowing him to race clear on goal. With Alli in support, Powell drew out Bialkowski before calmly sliding the teenager in, who took his time in rolling home his second of the evening.
Tempers were on a knife edge throughout, and after three yellow cards dished out in the first half, the crowd were baying for blood when George Baldock reacted to Jack Grealish’s challenge on the touchline. Both went head-to-head, but escaped with yellow cards to their names.
Notts County were gifted a lifeline back into the game when referee Geoff Eltringham awarded a penalty to the home side for an alleged handball against Jordan Spence though it looked for all the world to hit him in the chest. But Alan Sheehan stepped up and slotted the penalty home to reduce the deficit.
The referee certainly seemed to be swayed by the home crowd, as a string of dubious decisions went the way of County, throwing momentum their way for the first time in the game.
But their chance never came and in stoppage time, Alli sealed the victory and his hat-trick. Bialkowski went up for the corner, but had to race back as Dons broke at pace. Powell did well to hold up play just enough for Alli to get up with him to slide him in. Still with a lot to do, Alli drew out the keeper and bent it around him into the corner to seal all three points, and the match ball.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Notts County: Bialkowski, Dumbuya, Sheehan, Liddle (Fotheringham 65), Manny Smith, Leacock (Hollis 37), Grealish, McGregor (Murray 55), Mullins, Campbell-Ryce, Tyson
Subs not used: Spiess, Waite, Boucaud, Dixon
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Baldock, Kay, Spence, Smith, Gleeson, Alli, Powell, Odelusi (Bowditch 75), McLeod
Subs not used: Burns, Flanagan, Chadwick, Rasulo, Hall, Collinge
Booked: McLeod, Alli, Alan Smith, Baldock, Grealish, Gleeson, Manny Smith