BY DANIEL MARSH
AFC Wimbledon suffered penalty heartache as they crashed out of the League Cup to bitter rivals Milton Keynes.
The Dons took the lead inside the opening 10 minutes through a brilliant Scott Wagstaff goal before MK strikes from Conor McGrandles and David Kusumu were cancelled out by a late, late strike from Luke O’Neill.
The tie went to penalties, with Callum Reilly and Joe Pigott failing to convert from the spot for Wimbledon.
The visitors had a golden chance to take the lead inside the opening couple of minutes, with Nik Tzanev bringing down Regan Poole in the area. But McGrandles lashed over the bar and into a jubilant Chemflow End.
Just five minutes later, Milton Keynes were punished for their inability to convert from the spot. A Dons corner was headed clear initially to the edge of the area where Wagstaff swept home a smart half-volley past the helpless Lee Nicholls.
The momentum swung back and forth in a frantic opening period, and Milton Keynes restored parity with quarter of an hour gone, McGrandles sweeping home low from just inside the box after some neat footwork to make amends for his missed spotkick.
The visitors were in the driving seat after drawing level and looked the team more likely to net again during the first-half, but the Dons stood firm with some resolute defending, including a terrific block on the stroke of half-time.
But the visitors picked up from where they left off prior to the break and took the lead for the first time on the night through Kasumu just five minutes after the break. A corner was worked short, where Kasumu was left unmarked and in space. He composed himself before lifting a sweet, curling shot into the top corner past Tzanev to leave Wimbledon with it all to do.
The Dons huffed and puffed and were handed a lifeline on the hour mark, when Kwesi Appiah was clumsily scythed down by the veteran Ryan Harley. But Dons skipper Pigott ensured that the second penalty of the night at the Chemflow End would be wasted – seeing a tame effort comfortably stopped by Nicholls.
The Dons changed shape midway through the second-half to the 3-5-2 which served them so well last season, with substitute Paul Osew and O’Neill attempting to provide width with fellow substitute Michael Folivi trying to use his pace to stretch the game down the channels.
Wimbledon struggled to produce anything fluent enough to overly worry Nicholls in the visiting goal bar a late free-kick saw Luke O’Neill whip a ferocious free-kick across the face of goal and beyond the sprawling Terrell Thomas in what looked to be the Dons final chance.
But after some patient build-up on the left, a deep cross was hammered home by Luke O’Neill to salvage a draw from the Dons and force a penalty shoot-out for a place in the next round.
Reilly saw his spot-kick saved for Wimbledon before Tzanev stopped Baily Cargill’s penalty to give the Dons a chance of a reprieve. But skipper Pigott lashed his penalty over the bar, leaving Alex Gilbey to step up and send Milton Keynes through to the second round.