Stevenage advanced into the area quarter-finals of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy after coming from behind to beat MK Dons 2-1 at The Lamex Stadium tonight.
Trailing to a first half Shaun Williams penalty, Boro fought back with second half goals from debutant Francois Zoko and a Filipe Morais penalty to secure a much-needed win with a highly impressive performance.
It was a decent start to the game with both ‘keepers called into action in the opening few minutes. First Lucas Akins looped an effort into the hands of Ian McLoughlin before Chris Day tipped a Shaun Williams free-kick onto the bar to prevent the ball finding the top corner.
The opening 10 minutes saw Boro playing at a really high tempo with MK pinned back in their own half. Filipe Morais was looking particularly bright on the right flank and one move saw him burst down the wing before crossing for Luke Freeman who fired straight at the ‘keeper.
Dons responded and nearly took the lead on 13 minutes when a mazy run and shot by Daniel Powell forced Day into a fine save with his legs.
At the other end Stevenage thought they’d scored on 19 minutes. Michael Doughty flicked the ball over a Dons player, advanced forward and fed Akins who neatly slotted home only to be denied by the offside flag.
For all their attacking intent Boro fell behind on 24 minutes. Izale McLeod was bundled to the ground in the box by Freeman and Williams stepped up to score, sending Day the opposite way to his spot-kick in the league fixture 10 days before.
Freeman, eager to make up for his error, nearly forced an immediate equaliser, firing in a low effort from the left of the box which hit McLoughlin and bounced back into the ‘keeper’s arms.
Lucas Akins was next to have a go, taking on Ben Reeves before firing over whilst McLeod also went close with an ambitious effort from outside the box.
Stevenage kept up the pressure as half time approached but couldn't find an equaliser before the break.
Five minutes into the second half and Boro were level through a Francois Zoko goal on his debut. Excellent work by the impressive Doughty saw him twist and turn before firing in an effort which the lurking Frenchman flicked home for a poacher's goal.
Boro had their heads up and both Akins and Heslop went close with efforts, whilst at the other end Patrick Bamford fired wide as Dons looked to take the lead once again. However it was the hosts who went in front on the hour with a penalty of their own.
Zoko's cross from the right was handled and although Doughty found the back of the net, the ref signalled a spot-kick. Up stepped Filipe Morais to send McLoughlin the wrong way and give Boro a deserved 2-1 lead.
Don Cowan and Bruno Andrade came on for Zoko and Akins in the 74th minute and the Portugese winger nearly had the most dramatic of impacts, seeing an effort crash against the top of the bar after Dons failed to clear from a corner.
Cowan then went close to connecting to a Freeman cross as Boro continued to impress. Even the sprinklers got in on the action, suddenly popping up at McLoughlin's end in a light hearted moment of the game which caused a brief break in play.
MK Dons tried to rally but were met with resilient defending from Stevenage who worked hard all over the pitch to frustrate their opponents.
Five minutes from time and the visitors had a glorious chance to equalise. A smart turn and shot by Bamford was met with an even smarter save by Day low down to give Dons a corner which Boro defended with ease.
Luke Freeman nearly put the icing on the cake with a late third after a good run by Cowan set up the winger, but his right-footed effort was straight at the 'keeper.
Five minutes of injury time were signalled much to the dismay of the home faithful but a diving Bamford header apart, Boro held on for an excellent win.
Boro: Day, Smith, Ashton, Jones, Hartley, Morais (Wedgbury 80), Doughty, Heslop, Freeman, Zoko (Cowan 72), Akins (Andrade 72)
Subs from: Arnold, Wedgbury, Burrow
MK Dons: McLoughlin, Baldock, Williams, Lewington, Reeves, Smith, Potter, Gleeson, McLeod , Powell, Bamford
Subs from: Galloway, Rasulo, Banton, Carruthers
Referee: Fred Graham