Gigg Lane wasn’t the most romantic of backdrops, but Ben Tilney celebrated Valentine’s Day in the best way a teenage football can - making his full league debut.
The 19-year-old had made a handful of Dons appearances in the EFL Cup and Checkatrade Trophy this season, but stepping in at left-back for Tuesday night’s League 1 game at Bury was the culmination of 11 years of hard work - it had all paid off.
“It has made all the hard work I’ve been doing worth while,” he said, after he helped Dons keep a clean sheet in the 0-0 draw.
“I’ve been here since I was eight, so now looking back all that hardwork has paid off.
“The Cup appearances were really special to me as well, but this is a great feeling, playing with all the senior players.”
While he had made five cup appearances this season - only one under Robbie Neilson - Tilney had been around match day programmes, but never made a league appearance until Tuesday night.
After being told though, he said he immediately felt a difference in the way the first team squad prepares for a league match.
He said: “It’s a massive step, going into the league. There’s a difference in the changing room, everything is focussed on winning.
“You can feel it in the changing room, and it was quite strange because it’s the first time I’d been around it in that way.”
With Joe Walsh suspended for Saturday’s game against Fleetwood, and Dean Lewington still injured, Tilney now hopes he can remain in Neilson’s first team plans.
“I’ve got that taste now, I just want to get into the team and do as best I can so the gaffer keeps me in mind.
“I’ll do everything I can to get back into the squad and the starting 11.”