Sheffield United completed a dramatic late comeback to secure a place in the Capital One Cup quarter finals, beating MK Dons 2-1 at stadium:mk.
An unmemorable first half gave birth to a thrilling second. Benik Afobe rattled home his sixth of the tournament from the penalty spot after Craig Alcock upended Dele Alli in the area with 22 minutes to go.
But Blades substitute Michael Higdon would have the last laugh, heading in the equaliser with five minutes of normal time to go, before lashing in the winner in the third minute of stoppage time to complete the comeback, and book Nigel Clough’s side a spot in the last eight.
Karl Robinson made three changes to the side which drew 0-0 with Doncaster on Saturday. Dean Bowditch and Kyle McFadzean both overcame injury to make the starting line-up, while the ever-rotating forward position was filled by Benik Afobe. Will Grigg, Antony Kay and Daniel Powell dropped to the bench.
In unusual fashion, it was the visitors who made the brighter start at stadium:mk. With more possession and territory, United restricted Dons to quick attempts at a counter, and looping balls over the top for Afobe to chase.
United should have been in front when Ben Davies was afforded time and space on the right flank, and slid in a dangerous low ball towards Louis Reed in the centre. But he was just beaten to it by McFadzean, but there was a heart-in-mouth moment as it rolled just wide of David Martin’s goal and out for a corner.
The sides are separated by just two points in League 1, and it showed. Neither side was willing to give an inch, and neither side were really able to get on top, making for a rather dull spectacle.
With no chances at either end, the atmosphere quickly fell flat, despite early optimism from both ends of the ground. Afobe looked the more dangerous of the strikers, nearly getting in behind on a few occasions from some fierce balls his way, but unable to get on the end of them, they could hardly be deemed chances.
Barely two minutes into the second half, United had the best, and the most noteworthy, chance of the game when a goal-mouth scramble ensued as Dons failed to clear a fairly routine ball into the danger zone. Marc McNulty looked like he was going to open the scoring, but was met with McFadzean in the way, who eventually was able to hoist the ball away.
They really should have been ahead in the 52nd minute though, but Stefan Scougall incredibly missed the open goal from barely six yards out, heading over the top.
It certainly kicked Dons into life, and from there, the game suddenly felt like a decent spectacle. Alli looked a handful in the centre of the park as he tried to get things going in the engine room, while Dean Bowditch tested Howard’s gloves with a low drive from the edge of the box.
Robinson rolled the dice on the hour mark, replacing Bowditch and Reeves with Will Grigg and Daniel Powell, but it was a ball from Carruthers to Alli which brought the game it’s first goal. As Alli burst into the area, he was upended by Craig Alcock, leaving the referee no choice but to award the spot kick. Cool as ever, Afobe sent Howard the wrong way to give Dons a 68th minute lead.
Now fighting for their place in the competition, United were the team on the front foot, pushing desperately for an equaliser. They came close when Robert Harris’ effort was cleared off the line by Potter, but they looked like they’d forced extra time with five minutes to go when substitute Michael Higson rose highest to head Harris’ cross past David Martin.
It could have been a short-lived celebration though, as Alli once again raced into the penalty area, but saw his drive from a tight angle bounce off the base of the post and out behind.
United would complete their late dramatic comeback in the third minute of stoppage time though. A deep corner completely flummoxed Martin, who came racing out but got nowhere near the ball, allowing Higson time to lash home the winner, via the far post.
Referee: Roger East
Attendance: 8,520 (1,428)
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Flanagan, McFadzean, Spence, Potter, Alli, Carruthers, Bowditch (Powell 61), Reeves (Grigg 61), Afobe
Subs not used: McLoughlin, Kay, Baker, Randall, Hitchcock
Sheffield United: Howard, Alcock, Harris, Doyle, Murphy, Scougall (Baxter 70), McNulty (Higdon 55), Davies (Campbell-Ryce 75), McGahey, McEveley, Reed
Subs not used: Turner, McGinn, Kennedy, Dimaio
Booked: Potter, Alcock, Baxter, McFadzean