It was a five star performance from MK Dons as they thumped a dire Barnsley side 5-3 at Oakwell.
Benik Afobe and Samir Carruthers fired Dons into a 2-0 lead at the interval, before a brilliant team goal seven minutes into the second half, rounded off by Dele Alli, settled the tie.
Substitutes Will Grigg and Ben Reeves staked their claims for a starting role in Tuesday night’s match against Bradford as Dons went 5-0 up.
Conor Hourihane’s two screamers appeared to be circumstantial though, until Devante Cole added a third in the 90th minute, making for a slightly nervy finale, though Dons would ultimately hold on.
After two weeks without a competitive game, Karl Robinson made three changes to the line-up which beat Crawley Town at stadium:mk last time out. Darren Potter had shaken off the groin problem which saw him depart early from the Crawley game, but not entirely match fit, Robinson opted to keep him on the sidelines, with Mark Randall taking over in the middle of the park. Jordan Spence replaced suspended Kyle McFadzean in defence, and Samir Carruthers came in for Tom Hitchcock to play in behind Benik Afobe.
Going into the game, Dons hadn’t conceded a goal for six hours, and had David Martin to thank for maintaining the streak after just three minutes when Lewin Nyatanga’s flick from Joe Dudgeon’s header had to be tipped over the top.
Dons were lucky to remain on level pegging too when, after quarter of an hour, Conor Hourihane caught the visitors napping at a free kick, but his strike came back off the base of the post.
The opening exchanges were bitty and niggly - tackles were flying in but so were the fouls, and it didn’t make for a good flow. When Dons got going though, they looked very dangerous. Daniel Powell looked to have the measure of Reece Brown on the left, while George Baldock was having decent access on the opposite flank too.
There were murmurs of uncertainty from the Barnsley fans about Adam Davies’ abilities when yet another of his kicks sailed out of play, and particularly when he was almost beaten by Carruthers’ 35 yard free kick. He did himself no favours then when he spilled Mark Randall’s fierce strike from 20 yards neatly into the path of Afobe, who had the simple task of tapping home the rebound to put Dons into a 34th minute lead.
Davies upped his stock a little barely two minutes later when Dons sailed forward at pace, with Dean Bowditch, enjoying his time in the hole behind Afobe, unleashing the rampant Powell, but the keeper was a match to the strike. He needed to be at his best again a minute later when Bowditch’s dipping volley looked destined for the top corner, but for a full-stretch Davies left hand tipping it over.
The home side should have had a penalty kick though three minutes before the break when Dale Jennings’ cross clearly his Randall’s high hand, and it’d be a key decision as Dons went up the other end to double their lead.
Randall slid the ball wide down the right for Alli to chase, and after beating Dudgeon to the by-line, took his time to pick out the on-coming Carruthers who hammered the ball into the top corner past a hapless Davies to make it 2-0 at the interval.
Carruthers returned the favour in quite spectacular fashion barely seven minutes into the second half when Alli made it comfortable at 3-0. Afobe, from the corner of the area, rolled the ball across the face to Carruthers, who not only nutmegged one defender, but then lifted the ball over an incoming tackle, allowing Alli to dink the ball home to complete the move of the game.
Barnsley though, to their credit, kept plugging away, though Dons had noticeably taken their foot off the gas after the third goal. Devante Cole, son of former Manchester United striker Andy, added some extra pace in attack for Barnsley, but a scuffed touch blew his one-on-one with David Martin, having blown Jordan Spence away for pace.
Dons may have let off the throttle, but substitute Will Grigg didn’t get the memo as he raced through the Barnsley defence, having picked Lewin Nyatanga’s pocket, to put his name on the scoresheet with 19 minutes to go.
And no-one told Ben Reeves either. Having replaced Alli in the centre, he arrived late in the day to meet Powell’s pinpoint ball to rattle home Dons’ fifth of the afternoon with 11 minutes to go.
Barnsley though did get their name on the scoresheet with eight minutes remaining when Conor Hourihane smashed home from 25 yards, becoming the first player more than seven hours to score past Dons’ defence.
He got another five minutes later when the Dons defence stood off him at a short corner, with another screamer nestling in the top corner, leaving Martin with no chance.
The eventual scoreline would flatter the home side, with a third being bundled over by Cole in the 90th minute, but their 10 minute spell at the end of a dead game shouldn’t take away from Dons’ shining performance.
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Attendance: 9,192 (363)
Barnsley: Davies, Brown, Dudgeon, Berry, Nyatanga, Cranie, Hourihane, Abbott (Digby 45), Jennings, Hemmings (Cole 56), Lita (Winnall 68)
Subs not used: Dibble, M’Voto, Noble-Lazarus, Bree
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Kay, Spence, Baldock, Alli (Reeves 76), Randall, Carruthers (Hitchcock 73), Powell, Bowditch, Afobe (Grigg 69)
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, Rasulo, Tilney