REPORT: MK Dons 5-3 Northampton: Aneke and Barnes open their Dons accounts
Chuks Aneke bagged a brace and new signing Harvey Barnes scored within minutes of coming on as Dons climbed above Northampton Town with a 5-3 win on Saturday.
After a stale opening 30 minutes, Aneke turned provider for Kieran Agard to open the scoring before firing home his first goal for the club from the penalty spot shortly before the break.
And when he rocketed home a third 10 minutes into the second half, it looked as though Dons would cruise to victory, but a glut of second-half goals would ensure a thrilling end. Greg Wylde scored a screamer from the edge of the box, only for Darren Potter to restore Dons' three goal advantage two minutes later. Marc Richards then headed past substitute keeper Lee Nicholls for 4-2, before Harvey Barnes, who only signed on loan from Leicester on Friday, scored within three minutes of his introduction.
Richards then scored his second of the afternoon from the penalty spot to threaten another come back, but were asking too much so late on.
New signings Robbie Muirhead and Harvey Barnes were named among the substitutes after signing for Dons late in the week, as Robbie Neilson experiemented with another new formation. Playing three at the back, he pushed Georges Baldock and Williams up into the flanks, with Chuks Aneke, Kieran Agard and Nicky Maynard leading the way. The only change from the Brighton game saw Paul Downing return from injury, replacing Ben Reeves who missed out with a groin problem.
There was precious little to tell between the two sides in the opening half hour. Neither side were able to carve out an opportunity as the defences looked well on top. Northampton were dealt a blow when former Dons striker Alex Revell hobbled off after just 23 minutes though, replaced by Keshi Anderson - a man Dons tried, and failed, to sign in the summer.
The best chance of the opening half hour fell to the home side but came in the form of a penalty claim, as Nicky Maynard tried to take advantage of a mix-up between Zander Diamond and keeper Adam Smith, but the keeper got a hand to the ball before the striker was downed.
As the game threatened to descend into a bitty tit-for-tat squable in midfield, Chuks Aneke used his power and strength to set up the opening goal after 39 minutes. Picking up the ball in the centre circle, Aneke used his physical presence to bounce off and spin away from Matt Taylor before slipping in Kieran Agard who rattled the ball past Smith.
Aneke, who hadn't scored for Dons since signing in the summer, then got his reward as he doubled the lead from the penalty spot three minutes before half time. As Joe Walsh climbed to reach a corner, he was beaten to it by John-Joe O'Toole's hand. Aneke made light work of the penalty, sending Smith thew wrong way.
It was threatening to be the Aneke show as he continued to be the lynchpin for everything Dons did early in the second half as Northampton simply had no answer for him, and his performance was rewarded with his second of the afternoon as Dons went 3-0 ahead 11 minutes after the restart. As Ed Upson's corner caused a melee in the penalty area, with Dean Lewington wanting a penalty, Cobblers could only clear as far as Aneke on the edge of the box, and he smashed home his second, and Dons' third, with a powerful strike from the edge of the box.
Northampton had still barely had a chance until Greg Wylde sent a rocket into the top corner with his first touch to reduce the deficit on the hour mark, but within two minutes, Dons were celebrating again. Darren Potter, who had been out of sorts in the first half, found himself with space to shoot from the edge of the box and after a huge defelection off Lewin Nyatanga, it beat Smith with ease as Dons went 4-1 up.
Dons were dealt a blow with 21 minutes to go when keeper David Martin had to be replaced by Lee Nicholls, but there was nothing the keeper could have done to stop Marc Richards' header as he powered in Northampton's second within two minutes of his introduction.
Dons' new signings were given a run-out with 14 minutes to go, with goal-scorers Agard and the excellent Aneke being replaced by Muirhead and Barnes. And it was the latter who made an immediate impact, netting Dons' fifth within three minutes of his introduction, striking low past Smith after Maynard flicked on George Baldock's throw.
But Northampton were determined not to make it too comfortable for Dons in the closing stages as they scored their third with seven minutes to go, as Paul Downing tripped Keshi Anderson to allow skipper Richards to smash home from the penalty spot for 5-3 to threaten another comeback.
But Maynard and Barnes would both come close as Dons controlled the final few minutes as Dons moved above Cobblers in the League 1 standings to 16th/
Referee: Roger East
Attendance: 12,300 (3,039)
MK Dons: Martin (Nicholls 69), Lewington, Walsh, Downing, Williams, Upson, D Potter, Baldock, Aneke (Barnes 76), Maynard, Agard (Muirhead 76)
Subs not used: Powell, Rasulo, Brittain, Tshimanga
Northampton Town: Smith, Buchanan, Diamond, Boateng, Richards, Revell (Anderson 23), Beautyman (Wylde 61), O'Toole, Nyatanga, Taylor, Eardley
Subs not used: Cornell, McCourt, A Potter, Sonupe, Hanley
Booked: Taylor, Williams, Aneke, Nyatanga, Boateng, Potter