Harsh lessons as City U21s are beaten 6-0 at MK Dons in Papa John's Trophy
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City Under-21s saw their Wembley dreams finished in brutal fashion as they were thumped 6-0 by League One side MK Dons in the Papa John’s Trophy this evening.
Experienced former Bristol City and Rotherham striker Kieran Agard headed Milton Keynes in front midway through the first half and the dominant hosts moved through the gears after the break to ease to a comfortable victory over an understrength Canaries U21 team.
City were one of just seven of the 16 invited U21 teams to reach the last 32, finishing second behind Cheltenham in their group having impressively beaten Plymouth and Newport.
They were joined by Arsenal, Manchester United, West Ham, Wolves, Leicester and Manchester City in the knockout stages but only Leicester weren’t knocked out tonight, winning a penalty shoot-out after a 3-3 draw at Salford.
The Dons are 17th and two points above the League One relegation zone after steering clear of the drop during their first season under Norwich legend Russell Martin.
The former Scotland defender had former City colleagues Cameron Jerome and Andrew Surman in his squad but both started on the bench having started a 2-1 loss at Accrington in the league on Saturday, with the Dons making 10 changes to their starting line-up.
Jerome has scored five goals since returning from a stint in Turkish football and former Bournemouth midfielder Surman, also 34, is getting up to speed after joining as a free agent last month.
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Martin also has Carlton Morris and Louis Thompson on loan from Norwich, with midfielder Thompson currently out injured and striker Morris having scored four goals in 21 games ahead of his City contract expiring at the end of the season. The 24-year-old, who is one of the Canaries’ 2013 FA Youth Cup winners, didn’t have permission from his parent club to play though.
Scottish midfielder Reece McAlear and striker Tom Dickson-Peters both started for City’s youngsters, after recently being on the bench for the first team, with McAlear making a brief Championship appearance.
Josh Martin, Bali Mumba, Tyrese Omotoye, Andrew Omobamidele and keeper Daniel Barden had all been involved in this Trophy run but first-team demands and injury, for Mumba, have taken them out of consideration – and the Canaries unsurprisingly looked devoid of attacking threat.
Just a couple of hundred supporters took the opportunity to get back to Stadium MK for the first time since March, with eyes on the full current maximum of 2,000 likely to be set on a league game against Burton on Saturday.
Ethen Vaughan saw an early cross inadvertently float over the crossbar but that was as close as the visitors came in a first half that saw freezing conditions added to by persistent rain.
Agard nodded a header past City keeper Jon McCracken for the opener in the 33rd minute and were it not for two goal-line blocks soon after, Jonathan Tomkinson and Nelson Khumbeni combining to deny Agard and then American defender Tomkinson bravely denying Lasse Sorensen, then it would have been game over.
The youngsters were just about hanging in there at 1-0 down at the break though, with McCracken denying on-loan Middlesbrough striker Stephen Walker and the same player striking the post after twisting right-back Vaughan inside and out.
Further goals soon followed as the City youngsters ran out of puff, with Sorensen curling a fine strike into the top-right corner from 15 yards to take control in the 56th minute. To rub salt into the wounds, Martin introduced the class and experience of Surman to his mix for the final 30 minutes.
Within two minutes defender Reegan Poole powered a header in from close range from a Sorensen cross and Walker got the goal he’d been threatening 10 minutes later, thumping low into the bottom corner from near the penalty spot.
The disappointed visitors wanted their cruel night to be over but Agard turned in a fine Poole cross from the right in the 76th minute and just three minutes later it was 6-0, with defending Baily Cargil swiping home from close range.
McCracken made a great double stop to deny Dons substitute Lewis Johnson and Jonathan Rowe forced a fine save from home keeper Lee Nicholls – but it wasn’t to be, on a night of harsh lessons for David Wright’s development squad, who always knew they faced an uphill battle.
Victory takes the Dons into the last 16 of the competition and leaves them three wins from a Wembley final, in a competition they won in 2008.
Since the competition was revamped in 2016 and began inviting category one academies, no U21 team is yet to make it to the final – with the academy prospects of Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea knocked out in the quarter-finals during recent seasons.
MK DONS (3-5-2): Nicholls; Williams (C - Davies 69), Cargill, Harvie; Poole, Sorensen, Kasumu (Surman 58), Freeman (Johnson 73), Sorinola; Walker, Agard. Unused subs: Walker (GK), Keogh, Jerome, Smith
Goals: Agard (33, 76), Sorensen (56), Poole (59), Walker (68), Cargill (79)
CITY U21s (4-4-2): McCracken (C); Vaughan, Tomkinson, Dronfield, Nizet; Giurgi (Kamara 80), McAlear, Khumbeni, Hondermarck (Springett 73); Dickson-Peters, Dennis (Rowe 69). Unused subs: Jackson, Hills, Stewart, Shipley
REFEREE: Will Finnie (Bedfordshire)