MK Dons began their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a penalty shoot-out victory over Barnet after a 2-2 draw.
Dons dominated the opening proceedings and took a deserved lead through Ben Reeves after 18 minutes - his first of the season. But while they couldn’t add to their lead, they were made to pay as two defensive howlers gifted Barnet the lead in the second half. First, Scott Wootton and Lee Nicholls collided to allow Alex Nicholls to score into the empty net, while Samir Carruthers poked home past his own keeper 18 minutes from time to put the visitors ahead.
Joe Walsh glanced home a header to send the game to a shoot-out, but Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro’s errant spot kick allowed Brandon Thomas-Asante to stroke home the winner for the extra point.
With competition rules stating Karl Robinson had to play five recognised first teamers, it was a strong side put out to face Martin Allen’s Barnet. Four changes were made from the side which started against Peterborough, with Lee Nicholls, Scott Wootton, Dean Bowditch and Ben Reeves coming into the team.
Unsurprisingly, Dons were doing the brunt of the leg work in the opening exchanges. Daniel Powell forced Josh Vickers into an excellent save inside three minutes, but Reeves swiped at his shot, seeing it go wide of the empty net. Powell again forced a good save from Vickers but was deemed offside, while Barnet defender Bondz N’Gala, formerly a Dons loanee, got his toe in just ahead of Nicky Maynard after Bowditch was given space down the right.
And their pressure paid off in the 18th minute when Reeves scored with a sensational 25 yard strike after his corner was only half cleared by the Barnet defence.
The home side continued on the front foot, and Reeves was again at the heart of Dons’ attacking play, striking just wide before bringing a fine stop from Vickers with another strike from the edge of the box.
The second half continued in a similar vain, though a promising Barnet move was squandered by Curtis Weston, who launched the ball over the bar from the edge of the box after good work from John Akinde.
A blot to Dons’ copybook though came just eight minutes into the half when George Baldock went down off the ball, feeling his hamstring. He was replaced by GB Williams, but hobbled straight down the tunnel for treatment.
Dons have been prone to moments of defensive catastrophe this season, and despite it’s new personnel on Tuesday, it was yet another disastrous spell which allowed Barnet to equalise in the 61st minute. As the loose ball dropped between Lee Nicholls and Scott Wootton, the pair collided, leaving the defender downed and the keeper out of position. The ball fell perfectly for Alex Nicholls, who stroked into the empty net. To add insult to injury, Wootton too hobbled off, replaced by Oran Jackson.
Things went from bad to worse for the home side though as yet another defensive mix-up saw them fall behind with 18 minutes to go. Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro’s deep cross to the far post was headed back across, but Samir Carruthers got a toe in ahead of Weston to put past his own keeper.
But back came Dons though as Joe Walsh glanced home Bowditch’s free kick with eight minutes to go to send the tie to penalties.
With both sides scoring their opening three penalties, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro blazed his over the top, and Brandon Thomas-Asante converted Dons’ fifth to win the extra point.
Referee: John Brooks
MK Dons: L Nicholls, Baldock (GB Williams 54), Wootton (Jackson 65), Walsh, Lewington, Carruthers, Potter, Powell, Bowditch, Reeves (Thomas-Asante 62), Maynard
Subs not used: Burns, Rasulo, Brittain, TIlney
Barnet: Vickers, Johnson, N’Gala, Nelson, Weston, Akinde (Tomlinson 79), Togwell, Taylor (Amaluzor 46), Muggleton (Akra Akpro 46), A Nicholls, Vilhete
Subs not used: Stephens, Watson, Akpa Akpro, Champion, Taylor, Amaluzor
Booked: Wootton, Nelson, Reeves