MK Dons beat Coventry 2-0 to advance in the Leasing.com Trophy as Russell Martin picked up his first win as Dons manager.
Kieran Agard put MK Dons ahead in a tight contest just after the hour mark. Joe Mason would then double the home side’s lead moments later, although the Dons would see out the game a man light after substitute Brennan Dickenson was sent off.
The win was the Dons’ first since beating Fulham’s junior team in the same competition in early October, and ensured Martin finally had his first win in charge at the fifth attempt.
The Dons’ first outing since being on the wrong end of a comeback by Rotherham saw them have a Leasing.com Trophy test against Coventry, just over a month after the two sides played out a goalless draw in the league.
For their part, the Dons named a strong side filled with a number of first team regulars, while Coventry named a side containing only 3 of the players who faced the Dons in the league meeting.
MK Dons did have the ball in the back of the net in the game’s early stages, as Agard lobbed away keeper Ben Wilson. However, the referees ruled that the striker had made his run too soon and the goal was chalked off.
Coventry had already come close in unusual circumstances, with Lee Nicholls nearly giving the ball away to Amadou Bakayoko, before the striker headed a follow-up cross wide.
In the early stages, the game was largely defined by the final ball going astray and half chances being the best on offer. The best of these half chances saw an Agard header drift into Wilson’s hands and Alex Gilbey mishit an effort when well placed at the back post.
Coventry then began to show more. Jordy Hiwula hit the side-netting after a decent run down the left flank, before Nicholls stopped an effort from full-back Brandon Mason.
Jordan Houghton had the Dons’ best opportunity in response, with the midfielder seeing a skimmed low drive go wide.
Joe Mason would also come close, with the Dons striker curling an effort over the top of the goal.
Coventry’s best chance came on the break. Moments after Nicholls denied a speculative strike from range by Morgan Williams, the Dons keeper stood his ground well to deny Gervane Kastaneer at the end of an away counter.
Nicholls would then be called into action again in the final moments of the opening half, as he just about managed to turn Bakayoko’s header onto the post.
In the opening stages of the second half, MK Dons initially had some pressure, with Mason having an angled shot saved and a few other dangerous crosses.
The game began to fizzle out with a lack of energy from both sides. But just after the hour mark, it was the Dons who would strike first.
Industry from Conor McGrandles and Agard won a corner for the home side. From a short-played delivery, McGrandles’ cross was headed back across goal by an onside Baily Cargill, and Agard headed it in.
Coventry looked dangerous in response, with Jordy Hiwula seeing one shot blocked by Nicholls and another denied by a George Williams block, while the away side also had further moments of forward pressure.
But MK Dons were still able to go forward, and they made the most of one of their breaks. Space opened up for McGrandles, who was able to play a fine through-pass to Mason. In turn, the MK Dons striker was able to work space, run on goal, and hit a good strike across Wilson and into the back of the net.
It could have been better for the Dons, with Mason seeing a further strike saved by Wilson after he was teed up by Agard.
However it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Dons, as they were reduced to ten men late on. In a ten minute cameo, Dickenson had already received one booking for a foul when a second poor tackle earned him a quickfire dismissal, and with it a 5th red in 6 for the Dons.
Cargill hit his own bar in added time, but the Dons had done enough to take the win.
MK Dons: Nicholls – Williams, Walsh, Cargill, Lewington – McGrandles (Kasumu 74), Houghton – Agard (Bowery 87), Boateng (Dickenson 74), Gilbey – Mason
Subs not used: Moore, Poole, Asonganyi, Sorinola
Goal: Agard (62), Mason (71)
Sent Off: Dickenson
Booked: McGrandles, Gilbey, Dickenson
Coventry: Wilson – Watson, Williams, Drysdale, Mason – Allen, Eccles, O’Hare (Shipley 60) – Kastaneer (Jones 77), Bakayoko (Biamou 77), Hiwula
Subs not used: Marosi, Westbrooke, Bapaga, Newton
Booked: Allen, Jones