Nothing like Cup drama

Dons celebrate Carl Baker's equaliser
Dons celebrate Carl Baker's equaliser

It’s not the most glamorous of Cup competitions, but the Capital One Cup certainly knows how to bring drama to Milton Keynes.

Falling just a day shy of the one year anniversary of Dons’ historic 4-0 win over Manchester United at this stage of the competition, the unloved Cup provided another ditty to stadium:mk folklore.

Cody Cropper

Cody Cropper

It was far from a classic. Karl Robinson rightly likened the first half to a pre-season friendly in which neither side really got going. And he was right.

Making eight changes to his side - down from the 10 Robinson made in the first round - Dons handed a debut to Josh Murphy, who joined on loan from Norwich City last Friday.

He would not only turn out to be the main outlet for everything Dons attempted in the attacking third, but also the hero who’d ultimately book Dons a spot in the third round. He’d have to wait for his time though.

Cardiff, another of Dons’ Championship counterparts, arguably started the brighter.

Lee Hodson hoists one off the line.

Lee Hodson hoists one off the line.

Keen to use the pace of Sammy Ameobi, the midfield dutifully fed him ball after ball as he attempted to get the upper hand on Jordan Spence, who spent more time racing towards his own goal than he did running away from it in the opening 45 minutes.

But when Ameobi did nose ahead of Spence, Cardiff’s potentially potent front line of Alex Revell and Eoin Doyle came a cropper to Matt Upson, Kyle McFadzean and keeper Cody Cropper.

Without any flair or hysteria, Upson ran the back line with discipline and finesse. What he missed, Cropper was more than a match for as he proved he is a worthy number two to regular keeper David Martin.

The stand-in though will be the first to admit he wasn’t overly put through his paces as his defence did their job, meaning he rarely had to do his.

Daniel Powell started the game leading the line for Dons, but so little was his impact on the front line, his appearance barely warrants a footnote, though through no fault of his own. It simply wasn’t a game for attacking prowess.

The second period threatened to follow a similar suit to the first, but Revell made sure there was something to play for when he rocketed in the opener eight minutes after the restart.

Gambling on Stuart O’Keefe’s deep ball into the box missing everyone, Revell met the ball flush as he slid in, blasting the ball back across Cropper to put the Bluebirds into the lead.

Murphy remained the major outlet for the home side, as he used his pace to get at full back Matthew Connolly. And when the defender missed a clever reverse ball from Cristian Benavente, who showed precious glimpses of his trickery during his hour on the field, Dons almost had the equaliser.

Robinson rolled the dice on the hour mark and made all tee substitutions at once. On came Rob Hall, Samir Carruthers and Sam Gallagher, with Powell, Benavente and the hard-working Sergio Aguza making way.

It brought about a new lease of life for the home side, and Carruthers found himself at the heart of it.

His Jekyll and Hyde performances this season showed no signs of relenting as he almost teed up Gallagher with a perfect pass, before picking completely the wrong option barely two minutes later when he opted to go for goal with better options in his periphery.

But his next actions were certainly more worthy of Dr Jekyll as he sparked the move which led to Dons’ equalising goal.

Driving towards the left flank, Carruthers drew men towards him before sliding Murphy in down the flank. Getting to the byline, Murphy pulled the ball back to Hall in the centre. Brilliantly turning the fizzing ball towards goal, he came unstuck by a fine stop from keeper Simon Moore - who until that point had been a passenger.

His strong palm though would only go as far as Carl Baker on the edge of the six yard box. And he made no mistakes in lifting the ball into the roof of the net.

From there, it felt like there would only be one winner. Unfortunately, it would take extra time for that winner to be found.

After a nondescript first 15 minutes, Dons turned the screw and in almost a carbon copy of the first goal, with Carruthers and Hall playing key roles, Murphy was able to smash home his first goal for the club after Gallagher’s shot was saved again by Moore.

The keeper almost made amends for his part in both goals with a bold header late on as he ventured forward for a corner kick, but it fell narrowly wide as Dons claimed a third round spot.