Dons’ pre-season campaign ends with Chelsea defeat

Tom Hitchcock flies in against Fankaty Dabo
Tom Hitchcock flies in against Fankaty Dabo

MK Dons go into their first game of the Championship season on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Premier League champions Chelsea, though it truth it was in name only.

On a night made for the fans more than anything else, Dons’ squad resembled little to no likeness to the one manager Karl Robinson will take with him to Rotherham for the opening game of the Championship season this coming Saturday.

Tom Hitchcock put Dons into a 29th minute lead, though it would last barely six minutes before Nathan Ake equalised for Chelsea’s young squad. In a second half even more relaxed than the first, Tammy Abraham put the visitors ahead 10 minutes in, before the Blues clicked into cruise control to see the game out.

In a typically pre-season affair, neither side looked especially interested in engaging in a physical battle so close to the beginning of the season and it reflected in the play.

American keeper Cody Cropper was the busier of the two keepers throughout, but he certainly made his presence felt as he barked orders at his young defence, marshalled by Kyle McFadzean who was one of only two, along with Simon Church, likely to be pulling on the shirt in Rotherham on Saturday.

But it was Cropper who also played the leading role, making three top-drawer saves within the space of five first half minutes to keep his side level, before Tom Hitchcock’s 29th minute opener edged Dons ahead through a crowd of players.

The lead would last just five minutes as Nathan Ake pounced as Cropper’s luck ran out, unable to keep a grip on Jeremie Boga’s fierce strike from close range, leaving Ake with a simple finish.

Having missed the trip to Rochdale through illness, McFadzean’s babysitting exercise came to an end on 38 minutes as he trudged down the tunnel, replaced by Tom Flanagan.

Church too was withdrawn at the interval after a fairly fruitless 45 minute run out, signalling something of intent ahead of Saturday’s curtain raiser.

Still with little pizazz, Chelsea took the lead 10 minutes into the second half when the giant Tammy Abraham nodded home Ake’s cross from close range.

Without a clear leader in the Dons pack, Chelsea began to flex their muscle and assert themselves on the game. Some last ditch defending from Flanagan showed his desire to make an impression, while Giorgio Rasulo was doing his level best the drag Dons forwards with a string of powerful bursts forwards, met with little in the way of support from his lesser experienced team-mates.

Chelsea looked more than comfortable in their own game to stroke the ball around for the remainder of the game, firmly in control even when out of possession. For Dons’ youngsters, it was a good evening to get used to playing in front of a substantial crowd and the calibre of player they may come up against in the development squad.

In terms of preparation for the Championship, the evening provided little of worth though perhaps Cropper’s display of acrobatics to keep the scores civil in the first half may have given his manager something else to ponder.

Referee: Craig Pawson

Attendance: 6,954

MK Dons: Cropper (Burns 81), McFadzean (Flanagan 38), Church (Hadden 45), Hitchcock (Jackson 89), Rasulo (Owusu 89), Tilney (Steele 90), Hickford, Tshimanga, Furlong (Nombe 56), Palmiero (Osei-Bonsu 56), Trialist (Hunt 45)

Chelsea XI: Beeney, Dabo, Davey (Tomori 79), Clarke-Salter (Da Silva 70), Ake, Romeu, Boga (Musonda 70), Chalbah (Palmer 75), Feruz (Abraham 45), Swift, Piazon (Wright 78)

Subs not used: Butler, Musonda