Dons booked their place in the second round of the FA Cup after winning by the odd goal in seven against Port Vale.
Benik Afobe netted his 14th of the season to cancel out an early Jordan Spence own goal, before Carl Baker scored his first goal in Dons colours shortly before the break. But the lead lasted barely two minutes as Dany N’Guessan pounced on some poor Dons defending to make it 2-2 at the interval.
Afobe scored again, this time from the penalty spot to restore Dons’ lead, and when returning Danny Green scored with nine minutes remaining, it looked plain sailing for the visitors. But N’Guessan scored again two minutes later to make for a nervy ending for Dons, but one they managed with aplomb.
As promised, Karl Robinson made five changes to the side for the first round of the FA Cup. Coming in: Tom Flanagan, Samir Carruthers, Mark Randall, Carl Baker and Will Grigg. Grigg would start in the hole behind top scorer Benik Afobe, with Ben Reeves dropping into defensive midfield, and Baker on the right flank. Dele Alli didn’t travel.
Despite the changes, Dons were comfortably the better side in the opening exchanges. Vale keeper Chris Neal was guilty of under-estimating Benik Afobe’s persistence when he dawdled with the ball at his feet, allowing the striker to get a toe on his attempted clearance. Fortunately, it bounced to safety.
The keeper was given another early warning when Ben Reeves’ seventh minute shot beat him, but not the crossbar as it thumped against the frame of the goal.
But cruelly, it would be Port Vale who’d take the lead after 10 minutes. Chris Lines spun the ball out wide to Chris Birchall, and while his cross was tame, the Dons defence didn’t deal with it, and almost in slow motion, Ben Williamson’s shot was deflected into his own net by Jordan Spence.
Dons had a chance to respond immediately when Grigg’s dogged determination saw him cut across the face of the box, but his shot was just over the top.
The visitors were comfortably the better side, and continued to dominate proceedings. Both Afobe and Grigg were causing havoc, while Baker was enjoying time on the ball, but couldn’t control his shots on goal, troubling the fans behind the goal more than Neal in it.
But as the chances kept coming, Dons eventually made one stick and it came from top scorer Afobe. Slid through by Randall, Afobe needed no second invitation to smash past Neal to level the playing fields on 31 minutes.
And few could argue when they took the lead five minutes before half time. As Vale failed to clear a corner, the ball fell kindly to Baker 20 yards out. Taking a touch to settle himself, Baker bent his left footed shot around Neal into the far corner.
But they were pegged back barely four minutes later when Dons’ defence once again failed to clear a routine ball into the area, allowing Dany N’Guessan to fire home from 12 yards.
The second half was much of the same for the visitors as they continued to control everything about the game. Baker’s radar continued to play havoc with his accuracy, sending two more well over the bar as Dons sought out the lead once more.
And they were gifted the opportunity when Vale couldn’t deal with Baker’s free kick. While it was straight into the wall, Reeves picked up the loose ball, and holding it up to wait for the on-rushing Carruthers, the midfielder felt a clip from Williamson, sending him sprawling in the area. Afobe made no mistakes, lashing home Dons’ third.
With a few decisions not going their way, the Vale supporters suddenly began voicing their displeasure towards the officials, making for a decent atmosphere in the latter stages of the game as the home side began to press forward in search of a second equaliser.
They hit the post through Birchall, only to see the offside flag rule it void anyway, but their efforts would be in vain when Danny Green, making his first appearance since August, popped up at the far post to tap home Afobe’s cut-back to make it 4-2 with nine minutes to go.
Vale gave themselves a lifeline with seven minutes to go though, making for an uncomfortable ending for Dons. Mark Marshall found space from the angle to fire across Martin, and though the ball hit the upright, it bounced back off N’Guessan and over the line, pulling it back to 4-3.
There was still time for Port Vale to have Dons hearts in mouths, as Byron Moore got to the byline, only to be faced with Martin’s big hand grabbing the ball from his feet as he was about to cut the ball back.
Youth team hero Kabongo Tshimanga was rewarded with a late cameo in stoppage time, and almost stole the headlines. Breaking from the halfway line, the 17-year-old burst into the area and got a shot on goal, but it was straight at Neal - effectively the last kick of the game.
Referee: Charlies Breakspear
Port Vale: Neal, Yates (Dodds 80), McGivern, Duffy, Birchall (Moore 64), Williamson (Daniel 64), Lines, O’Connor, Marshall, Streete, N’Guessan
Subs not used: Johnson, Brown, Dickinson, Slew
MK Dons: Martin, Lewington, Flanagan, McFadzean, Spence, Baker, Reeves, Randall, Carruthers (Green 73), Grigg, Afobe (Tshimanga 90)
Subs not used: Hodson, McLoughlin, Hickford
Booked: Yates, Carruthers, Flanagan