REPORT: MK Dons 3-2 Spennymoor Town
MK Dons finally got the monkey off their backs and won their first game at home in eight months as they beat Spennymoor Town 3-2 to progress in the FA Cup.
Three goals in the opening 15 minutes from the home side made it a comfortable afternoon for the managerless Dons as Ben Reeves, Brandon Thomas-Asante and Kieran Agard put the game to bed before it really got started.
The non-league outfit gave their eight coach-loads of fans something to cheer when Joseph Tait headed past Lee Nicholls, and made for a very uncomfortable final seven minutes when substitute Andrew Johnson bent in their second of the afternoon.
Caretaker boss Richie Barker rang the changes for the FA Cup match against non-league Spennymoor Town, making five from the team which lined up against Sheffield United last Saturday. Keeper Lee Nicholls replaced David Martin, George B Williams replaced suspended George Baldock, Darren Potter and Samir Carruthers were out injured and replaced by Kieran Agard, Branton Thomas-Asante and Nicky Maynard started up front.
Having grown an unpleasant trait in conceding early, three goals in the opening 14 minutes went a long way to calming the nerves and getting the monkey off Dons' back. Ben Reeves opened the scoring after seven minutes with a low strike from the edge of the 18 yard box, bouncing on the way through to beating keeper Dan Lowson.
It was 2-0 four minutes later, courtesy of Brandon Thomas-Asante scoring his first goal for the club. Having netted a hat-trick in the FA Youth Cup earlier this week, the teenager was on hand to roof the ball from close range after great work from Dean Lewington to keep the ball alive on the left.
It was 3-0 to Dons in the 14th minute when Reeves again fired one goalwards, but Kieran Agard was on hand to divert the ball past Lowson and put the game out of reach.
Or at least that's how it appeared before some criminal defending from Lewington gave Spennymoor a glimmer of hope. Craig Gott's free kick from just inside the Dons half was clipped into the penalty area and Joseph Tait was allowed a completely free header, playing the ball back across Nicholls and into the corner of the net.
Until that point, Spennymoor had been totally out-played, predictably, but the goal gave the visitors hope and the confidence to play their football.
Dons though were seemingly hell bent on getting Nicky Maynard his first goal of the season but luck certainly wasn't with him. Having had a header cleared off the line, Agard teed him up when it looked as though he'd score if he shot, only for Tait to step in and intercept.
The best of his chances though came five minutes before the break when he was hussled off the ball as he broke through, only for a second bit of the cherry to fall from him barely five yards out, drawing a fantastic save from Lowson who knew very little about it.
He even had the ball in the back of the net and was off celebrating early in the second period, only to have it cut short with the offside flag ruling it out. The second half though was a nondescript affair. Too often Dons were guilty of wasting chances to shoot in a bid to set up Maynard, but his goal never came as he was replaced by Kabongo Tshimanga with 20 minutes to go.
But while the game was coasting towards the finale, Spennymoor made it a very uncomfortable for the home side when substitute Andrew Johnson cut inside from the left onto his right foot and bent the ball around Jack Hendry and Nicholls' despairing dive to reduce the arrears to just a single goal with seven minutes to go.
The non-league outfit though, despite seeing a lot of the ball in the closing minutes, failed to really test Nicholls.
For Dons, it was finally the win they needed at home, albeit not as convincing in the way of the scoreline as they'd have liked, but they did enough to put their name into the hat for the second round, for which the draw takes place on Monday night.
Referee: Constantine Hatzidakis
MK Dons: Nicholls, Lewington, Walsh, Hendry, GB Williams, Upson, Reeves, Thomas-Asante (Colclough 70), Agard, Bowditch, Maynard (Tshimanga 70)
Subs not used: Martin, Rasulo, Brittain, Downing, Tilney
Spennymoor Town: Lowson, Mason, Tait, Curtis, Griffiths, Gott, Anderson (Mitchell 77), Henry, Chandler, Ramshaw (Johnson 63), Armstrong (Dowson 63)
Subs not used: Rafferty, Watson, Craddock, Taylor
Booked: Armstrong, Upson