Stevenage came out on the wrong side of a five goal thriller in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday evening, as MK Dons went home 3-2 winners on the night...
After twice going behind, Stevenage fought back to make it 2-2 in the second half, but a late stunner from Jay Bird saw the Dons take all three points and top spot in Southern Group C.
Alex Revell named six changes from the side that faced Salford City, with Billy Johnson and Academy starlet Mackye-Townsend West making their debuts, whilst Ben Coker returned from injury to make his first appearance since the opening game against Portsmouth in the Carabao Cup. Romain Vincelot, Inih Effiong, Femi Akinwande and Jack Smith also returned to the team.
Boro got off to the better of starts and had two great chances within the first 10 minutes. The first came after just 30 seconds, as Newton stormed forward on the attack before unleashing a powerful strike that forced Walker to back-pedal before pushing over the bar. Soon after, Effiong hit the woodwork with a close range header and it was looking good for Alex Revell’s men during the early goings.
The Dons came back into the contest though and should have gone ahead on 25 minutes, as a swift break up the pitch saw Bird get in down the right hand side and square for Nombe, who was denied by Johnson’s terrific save.
Five minutes later, a chance went begging for Stevenage as Effiong’s chest into Newton released the forward on the half-way line, and his determination saw him successfully bare down on goal, before losing control at the crucial moment just as he was about to strike.
In his first game for the club, Johnson was having a fine game and made another save on 32 minutes to prevent Sorensen from finding the bottom corner, but the resulting set-piece was sent towards the back-post for a free header, which was put across the face of goal for a Dons man to head at Johnson, who parried his initial save into Morris’ path for a tap-in to make it 1-0.
His luck didn’t improve, as with five minutes to go before the break, Morris played in Sorensen for a gilt-edged chance from just a few yards out which Johnson miraculously saved, only to see Bird pounce on the rebound and smash home the second goal of the game.
Neither keeper was particularly lucky in the first half and Stevenage got back into the contest thanks to their own stroke of luck just before the half, as a Townsend-West deep free-kick was headed into his own goal by Thompson in the most bizzare manner.
Revell rang the changes at half-time, bringing on Cuthbert and James-Wildin for Coker and Osborne. Effiong was having a good game, proving effective at bringing others into play and did so again shortly after the break, allowing Akinwande a run at goal, who stung the palms of Walker with a fierce effort on target.
Milton Keynes continued to threaten though and Sorinola fired narrowly wide from a free-kick on 52 minutes after James-Wildin brought him down, resulting in an early yellow card for the substitute. The rain came teeming down with 30 minutes to play and with just one goal in the contest, it was all to play for as Stevenage continued to push for an equalising goal.
The Dons defenders struggled to contain Effiong all night and he finally got his rewards on 65 minutes, after backing into and then rolling his man to run at goal, resulting in a clumsly challenge to win a penalty, which he duly smashed home to level things up.
Boro showed plenty of heart to get back into the match but MK Dons superior quality showed in the end, as Jay Bird found the top corner with five minutes to go from the edge of the box to put Russell Martin’s side back ahead.
There was to be one more chance for Stevenage and it was James-Wildin, who burst forward with purpose to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper, only to see his effort well saved. With the second fixture in the group taking place immediately after the game, it would be a waiting game to see how the result affects Boro’s chances of progressing to the next round, ahead of the final tie at Northampton.