Dons boss Neal Ardley finally had something to smile about on Tuesday night, after two weeks of dejection and disappointment.
After a League Two defeat to Stevenage Borough on Saturday, which featured a dire second half display, the mood at the Cherry Red Records stadium was lifted with a dramatic Johnstone’s Paint Trophy penalty shoot-out win over Southend.
The win is the Dons first in a major cup competition since November 2012, and Ardley’s relief was mixed with pride and the sense of a job well done.
He said: “Win, lose or draw, we were set up to learn as much as possible from the game.
“We learned that Tom Beere is showing signs he can make the step up, we learned that Adebayo Azeez is taking on what we tell him in training, and we learned that Kevin Sainte-Luce can play up front as well as on the wing.”
He added: “But I am very proud. This club is built on the fans and what they have done over the past 10 or 12 years, and to see their team play that way with two of their products [Beere and Ben Harrison] in that team it must have been the icing on the cake.”
Ardley hopes to take the good vibes up the M6 for the League Two clash at Carlisle tomorrow.
However, after the Blues sacked manager Graham Kavanagh on Monday, Ardley has warned against any complacency.
“The sacking is a positive for them, and I’m not being disrespectful to Graham [Kavanagh],” he said.
“When the pressure is on the manager and the fans are not happy, if you get on top of them and you keep them quiet, the pressure on them increases.
“Now, the new guy comes in and he cannot really lose – it’s his first game and they will give him time.
“What we have to do is make our performance levels high and make sure they have to be at their absolute best to beat us.”
The only negative from Tuesday night was the first half dismissal of Harry Pell, and Ardley admitted the midfielder needs to address his discipline.
Ardley said: “It was a red card, absolutely.
“We’ve tried with Harry. We’ve coached him on his defending and coached him on moving his feet and not being rash with his tackles.
“But the Southend win was not not about Harry, it was about the 10 that carried us through.
“They were phenomenal. I’ve done enough negatives at home so let’s talk about positives.”