Hoskins and Smith on target as Cobblers down Dons for winning end to pre-season

Cobblers rounded off their pre-season schedule with an encouraging 2-1 victory over local rivals Milton Keynes Dons at the PTS.

Friday, 26th July 2019, 10:25 pm
Sam Hoskins opened the scoring. Picture: Pete Norton

The first 45 minutes on Friday evening were easily Town's best of pre-season and one goal was the least they deserved having created at least three clear chances - including Sam Hoskins' 14th-minute opener - to MK Dons' none, with the returning Alan McCormack particularly impressive in midfield.

The second-half was more even as both managers rang the changes but Smith nodded in a second 10 minutes after half-time and with Dons unable to test either David Cornell or Steve Arnold, at least until Kieran Agard's late goal, Cobblers came away with a worthy victory.

It was the ideal end way to finish off a mixed pre-season campaign and will give Town a shot of confidence going into next Saturday's Sky Bet League Two opener against Walsall.

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There were positives all around the park but McCormack, Charlie Goode and Chris Lines provided the standout performances while Nicky Adams grabbed himself a couple of assists.

McCormack belatedly made his first appearance for the Cobblers when starting against Paul Tisdale's Dons while Scott Wharton, fresh from signing earlier in the afternoon, made the bench.

Town, again operating with four at the back, began with a spring in their step - as they did at Brackley four days earlier - and were nearly in front on just five minutes when Lee Nicholls beat away Hoskins' effort after good interplay between Matty Warburton and Smith.

The little and large combination up front worked well for Town in the first-half and Hoskins adjusted his radar second time round as Cobblers hit the front on 14 minutes.

Warburton, who had dragged a shot wide following Smith's flick-on moments earlier, won possession in midfield and laid the ball off to Nicky Adams and his well-directed cross landed perfectly for Hoskins to side-foot home.

Charlie Goode was twice in the right place to thwart dangerous Dons attacks, first to block and then to clear, but otherwise the visitors posed minimum problems and the chief threat continued to be carried by Town.

Smith forced Nicholls into routine stop but the Dons custodian was at his best to prevent Town adding a second shortly before half-time, reacting quickly to parry Warburton's low effort from inside the box.

The half-time changes included a first sight of Wharton who was joined on the pitch by Shaun McWilliams and Steve Arnold with McCormack among those to be taken off - as was the plan before kick-off.

Wharton almost scored with his first touch for the Cobblers, heading over Adams' corner, but there was more urgency to Dons' play after half-time and they should have been level on 51 minutes, only for Joe Walsh to lift over from six yards.

And that miss was punished by Town moments later and again it was Adams that provided the assist, his corner put on a plate for Smith to leap high and divert beyond Nicholls.

Adams nearly had a hat-trick of assists when he released Smith to fire wide and though further changes were made, still Cobblers threatened as Warburton spurned a fine opening after outstanding work from substitute Morgan Roberts.

Andy Williams missed two late chances to add a third and Town were in for a jittery finish when Dons grabbed a goal back, Agard side-footing into the bottom corner from Ben Reeves' pass.

Joe Bunney clattered the post from long-range but the home side played out the final few minutes with little concern to make it a winning end to pre-season.

Cobblers: Cornell (Arnold 45), Hall-Johnson, Martin (Bunney (74), Goode (c) (J Williams 62), Turnbull (Warton 45), McCormack (McWilliams 45), Lines (Watson 59), Warburton (Pollock 74), Hoskins, Adams (Roberts 62), Smith (A Williams 74)

Subs not used: Hughes

MK Dons: Nicholls, Williams, Lewington (c) (Cargill 78), Walsh, Martin, Brittain, Harley (Boateng 63), Houghton (Poole 78), Bowery (Agard 62), McGrandles (Asonganyi 74), Mason (Reeves 74)

Subs not used: Stuart Moore, Nombe, Kasumu, Pattison, Sorinola

Referee: Kevin Friend

Attendance: 1,904

Dons fans: 596