There was to be no November 5th fireworks from the Peacocks as they suffered a comprehensive defeat at Stadium MK to end their FA Cup aspirations for another year. The League One side were in the driving seat from the moment they grabbed the lead after just six minutes and from then on it was an uphill battle for Town to cope with the quality of football displayed by the full timers.
It certainly is an impressive stadium that MK Dons call home, and it took a while to acclimatize to the surroundings and pinch yourself that the Peacocks were actually going to play a competitive match here. After the warm-ups, the Town team was welcomed on to the pitch by the wall of sound from the 900+ travelling supporters and Guns N’Roses blaring out ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ over the PA. How the visitors could have done with some dense jungle foliage to halt the advance of the hosts over the next 90 minutes.
Head of Football Rob Dray made just the one change from the previous match against Tonbridge, Nick McCootie replacing Dave Sims-Burgess up front. Town were actually the first to encroach in the opposition half, a foul on Ollie Chamberlain presenting Lloyd James with a free kick which was swung in but comfortably cleared. It very soon became evident though that the Dons were a class or two above the usual opposition faced on a Saturday afternoon. A good interception by Chamberlain averted danger when Louie Barry threatened before MK took an early lead on six minutes. Will Grigg was brought down by Joe Guest just outside the area on the left side and the Town wall failed to do its job as Dawson Devoy fired through it to beat Jack Bycroft at his right-hand post.
Livewire Aston Villa loanee Barry saw a shot blocked and Bycroft came out to gather ahead of the incoming Daniel Harvie as the home side gave no time for Town to regroup which produced a second goal after 12 minutes, Lewington finding Harvie whose low cross from the left was almost nonchalantly stroked past Bycroft from six yards by former Wigan and Sunderland striker Will Grigg.
A Nick Grimes surge into the Dons’ half had promise but he opted to shoot rather than find Chamberlain free out wide and his effort travelled wide while Jay Foulston looped a free kick in which fell to Grimes on the right, however his attempted cross back ricocheted off him for a goal kick. Opportunities for Town proved rare though as the hosts dominated, retaining possession with ease, and constantly looking for gaps which unfortunately they found too regularly.
Bycroft made a fantastic touchover from Devoy’s strike although the flag was already raised while Barry beat two men to drill across goal for Dan Ball to clear. Another cross from Darragh Burns was cleared as far as Devoy who fired over the target, Barry turned to shoot just wide from 20 yards and Grimes intervened to thwart Grigg from profiting from a Devoy cross as the Peacocks were forced to mainly defend, their only relief coming when Guest released Chamberlain whose shot took a slight deflection to drift benignly to home keeper Franco Ravizzoli. His opposite number Bycroft then did superbly well to deny Barry who had skipped clear just before the break, his pace taking him into the box, but Bycroft spread his body to get something on the effort to divert it over the bar. The first half ended with Town just about clinging on to the game, two goals down but needing a big improvement at both ends if any ideas of a comeback were to bear fruit.
Those hopes crumbled three minutes after the break when MK added a third, Devoy’s excellent pass over the defence finding Burns who took the ball down before firing past the exposed Bycroft into the corner of the net. It nearly got worse a minute later when Jack Tucker’s diagonal ball reached Barry on the left and he cut in to see his strike touched onto a post by Bycroft, with Harvie’s follow-up blocked. As the afternoon turned increasingly dank and chillier, it became a case of damage limitation from the visitors who were given no breathing space by a home side now on cruise control. Henry Lawrence moved inside with ease to thread a pass through which Grigg lashed wide while Bycroft again came to the rescue, blocking a close range cross from Barry before foiling Grigg who had got his head on Lawrence’s delivery into the mix.
A triple substitution on the hour from the hosts would hopefully quieten things down. No such luck. One of the new faces Nathan Holland was soon involved, evading a number of yellow shirts down the left to see his effort from a tight angle palmed away by Bycroft. The Peacocks then made a double swap of their own, with Dylan Morgan and Sims-Burgess replacing Lee Lucas and McCootie. Although this freshened things up going forward, Morgan beating his man before the home defence cleared, Dons were always probing for inlets through the Town backline and found one again, Mo Eisa finding space to slant an effort narrowly wide of the far post.
A Holland miskick then released Eisa who had his shot blocked but there was no denying the MK sub who scored the fourth goal after 74 minutes. Conor Grant who had only been on the pitch for two minutes made ground to find Eisa on the left and the Dons’ striker moved inside to deliver a peach of a finish into the far corner from 25 yards. There was no respite as straight afterwards Eisa fed Holland whose drive was parried by Bycroft, the only candidate for Town’s Man Of The Match award, who then got his body behind a shot from Tennai Watson and although unable to hold the ball was eventually cleared.
Joe Budd replaced James ahead of the final ten minutes which produced another two goals to embellish the scoreline. Another defence splitting pass, this time from Lawrence, reached an unmarked Grant who had breached the defence and it was all too easy for him to slot past Bycroft on 81 minutes. After Town had made their final two substitutions, five being allowed from this stage of the FA Cup, Grant added his second of the contest and his team’s sixth three minutes later, Devoy slipping a pass through to him on the edge of the box and despite Bycroft getting a hand to the shot there was too much power on it to keep it out.
The best attempt of the game for the Peacocks came in the final minute when an unconvincing clearance from Ravizzoli was picked up by Zac Smith to find Ross Stearn who drilled a strike inches over from distance. That was as good as it got as the whistle brought an end to Town’s Cup campaign. Not the result Town wanted, and the margin of defeat was certainly more than might have been envisaged at 3pm but a memorable day out nevertheless, with the fantastic Peacock contingent unrelenting in their support during the game and comfortably winning the singing competition against the muted home fans. On the pitch though it was a different matter as the visitors were ultimately outclassed by their senior opponents.
Taunton: Jack Bycroft, Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Dan Ball, Ollie Chamberlain, Lloyd James (Joe Budd 78), Nat Jarvis (Ross Stearn 82), Nick McCootie (Dave Sims-Burgess 65), Joe Guest (Ross Staley 82), Zac Smith, Lee Lucas (Dylan Morgan 65). Unused subs: Jake Wannell, Lloyd Irish
MK Dons: Franco Ravizzoli, Dean Lewington (captain), Jack Tucker, Warren O’Hora, Josh McEachran, Will Grigg (Mo Eisa 59), Louie Barry (Nathan Holland 59), Darragh Burns (Conor Grant 72), Daniel Harvie (Tennai Watson 59), Henry Lawrence, Dawson Devoy. Unused subs: David Martin, Ethan Robson, Daniel Oyegoke, Matthew Dennis, Zak Jules
Referee: Thomas Kirk (Altrincham)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Marc Wilson (Cambridge)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Abbas Khan (Leicester)
” We wanted to do a little bit better but ultimately it wasn’t our day……..” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
” We gave it our all but they were probably a step too far for us today………..” hear what captain Nick Grimes had to say about the game on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Mind In Somerset MOM
Jack Bycroft receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Match Sponsors for the Cheshunt home game Word Gets Around Allstars