Dons made light work of 10-man Northampton Town in their 500th game, winning 2-0 at stadium:mk to progress to the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
A fairly slow first half was sparked into life when Ishmel Demontagnac’s petulant challenge on Dele Alli earned him a 33rd minute red card, swinging the game hugely in Dons’ favour.
But it took them until the 53rd minute made the extra man count as Patrick Bamford fired home Jason Banton’s cross. Banton turned provider again five minutes later as Dele Alli rattled in the second to put the tie beyond doubt.
As expected, Karl Robinson made sweeping changes to his side for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy match ahead of Saturday’s huge League 1 clash with Swindon. Ben Reeves and Jason Banton, who both scored at Sixfields in the first round of the League Cup, both started while Cobblers were without leading goal scorer Roy O’Donovan who was suspended. Transfer deadline day signing Danny Green was given a start on the Dons right flank.
Northampton barely touched the ball in the opening 15 minutes as Dons passed briskly around the park without really making much headway. The football they were playing was attractive though, forcing the visitors to chase, despite being penned in their own half.
Dons probably should have been ahead though after 12 minutes when, having already fired narrowly over, Patrick Bamford was first to reach Jason Banton’s cross, but his header, though beating Matt Duke, didn’t beat the upright as it bounced back in to play.
The home side continued to dominate possession, but the final, killer ball was lacking as Smith, Alli and Bamford all saw passes intercepted at vital times.
With the game threatening to turn into a snooze fest, it sparked in to life with a moment of utter petulance. Alli, the pantomine villain at Sixfields, picked up a booking for a foul on Kevin Amankwaah and was a marked man from the League Cup game earlier in the season. But on 33 minutes, the teenager was taken out by Ishmel Demontagnac just beyond halfway after dispossessing the winger. The malicious nature of the challenge left referee Graham Horwood with no doubts as he pulled out the red card, reducing the visitors to 10 men.
It certainly brought the game to life. Northampton, feeling hard done by, then felt obliged to try and wind up Dean Lewington in an attempt for a reaction. Jacob Blyth first had a little nibble when the pair battled at a Cobblers corner, swinging a leg at the Dons captain before giving him a shove as they walked away.
Matt Duke, man of the match the last time the two sides met, was on top form once again, keeping out both Reeves and Bamford late in the half.
Dons’ stage fright in front of goal threatened to rear its ugly head again when a flowing move between Reeves, Smith, Bamford and Green had the fans urging for someone to shoot, but the ball popped back out and around the box. Reeves’ eventual shot hit Smith though, and danger was averted. It was as close as Dons would come before the half time break.
Both keepers needed to be alert just after the break though, and both did their part to keep it goalless. First, Lewington forced Duke into a good stop after some great work down the left from Bamford. Then, Blyth skipped past the challenge of Williams to fire powerfully on goal, but McLoughlin was more than a match for it.
Dons though eventually made the extra man count though when Jason Banton broke down the touchline, cutting back for Bamford to fire in first time.
And they wasted no time in doubling the lead five minutes later. Banton, this time on the right flank, got to the byline and patiently waited for a spare man to appear at the penalty spot. He picked out Alli who, like Bamford, hit it hard and high into the roof of the net to make it 2-0.
Bamford was inches away from his second of the night five minutes later when Reeves’ shot was deflected just out of his reach as Dons looked to put the match even further out of Northampton’s reach. In truth, it was hard to see a way back into it.
They had a brief glimpse of goal when Blyth broke in behind Williams, but with just McLoughlin to beat, he incredibly fired wide of the goal.
Banton was proving a handful for the visitors, with step-overs aplenty and quick flicks to confuse both Northampton full-backs as he floated from flank to flank. And he forced Duke into a full-stretch stop with a range effort which looked destined for the top corner.
Dons didn’t need to get out of second gear after Demontagnac’s sending off and cruised in at the finish. It might not have been the most glamorous of games to be celebrating as their 500th, but it was one which put them into the second round of the first trophy they ever lifted. The road back to Wembley begins here.
Referee: Graham Horwood
Attendance: 4,299 (861)
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Otsemobor, Lewington, Williams (Galloway 83), Kay, Alli (Chadwick 71), Smith, Reeves, Banton, Green (Baldock 78), Bamford
Subs not used: Rasulo, Carruthers
Northampton Town: Duke, Amankwaah, Carter, Collins, Demontagnac, Hackett (Emerton 64), Tozer, Deegan (Toney 86), Heath, Blyth, Harriott (Hooper 88)
Subs not used: Snedker, Platt
Booked: Alli, Williams, Tozer, Toney
Sent off: Demontagnac