Substitute Toyosi Olusanya emerged as the unlikely hero for Wimbledon today with the 18-year-old striking the winner on his debut.
Olusanya, who was still playing college football until last year before being snapped up by our academy, struck the only goal from the penalty spot after being brought down himself.
The 1-0 win was fully deserved on the day for Wimbledon and the final whistle also brought news that Neal Ardley’s men will face Accrington Stanley in the play-off semi-final as they slipped out of the automatic promotion spots.
Neal Ardley said in the build-up to this game that changes would be made and that’s the way it turned out with only three players remaining from the side that started against Stevenage. Callum Kennedy, Jake Reeves and Barry Fuller were the only three to retain their places. It was a significant match for 20-year-old defender Will Nightingale as he was considered ready to make his first start since September after recovering from a serious knee injury. Ryan Sweeney was paired alongside him in a home-grown centre-back partnership and James Shea was handed his first start since late January in goal with Kelle Roos rested. Newport also had decided to shuffle their pack with seven changes made by manager Warren Feeney.
With a front three of Bayo Akinfenwa, Ade Azeez and Rhys Murphy working in tandem early on, Wimbledon caused problems for Newport. Akinfenwa showed good control to latch onto a long ball and beat his marker in the fifth minute, but he volleyed just over the crossbar. Then fit-again Jake Reeves fired just wide and Murphy was also off target with a decent effort. However, Newport fashioned a fine chance of their own when Scott Barrow put over a cross that was headed just wide by Scott Boden.
A highly promising move midway through the half resulted in a Wimbledon penalty appeal. Superb hold-up play by Akinfenwa found Murphy in space and his lovely pass put Azeez through, but a tackle by Danny Holmes was deemed legal by referee Geoff Eltringham. Then came an incident that overshadowed the first-half with Connor Smith coming off worse after a clash with Newport’s Lenell John-Lewis. Following 10 minutes of treatment, Smith was stretchered off to a rousing ovation from the crowd. It was certainly a moment when Wimbledon’s medical team, including volunteers, showed their value. Tom Beere was handed a chance to make an impression after a successful loan spell at Hampton & Richmond.
The game struggled to click into gear after that. Wimbledon continued to dominate possession, but Newport were providing stubborn resistance. The best chance of the first-half came deep into the 10 minutes of injury-time when Akinfenwa headed down intelligently for Murphy, but he blazed over from close range.
It had been a first-half of few chances, but the second start with much more attacking verve from both sides. Almost straight from the kick-off, Wimbledon could have opened the scoring when Azeez latched onto a long ball, but he was unable to get enough on his shot and Newport goalkeeper Rhys Taylor saved. Then Azeez showed good awareness to set-up Akinfenwa, but he volleyed wide. At the other end, came the best save so far as James Shea reacted brilliantly to beat out a fierce drive from John-Lewis. However, Wimbledon came so close again when Akinfenwa’s effort flashed just wide with some Dons fans thinking it had gone in.
Wimbledon really started to turn on the pressure midway through the second-half and it was a spell that was so unfortunate not to bring an opening goal. Rhys Murphy, who had been lively all day, came so close to earning his second Wimbledon goal when he turned smartly and got in a shot, but Newport goalkeeper Rhys Taylor tipped over superbly. The Dons came even closer when Akinfenwa met Callum Kennedy’s cross with a looping header, but it bounced agonisingly off the far post and away to safety with Taylor beaten.
With 17 minutes to play, there was a significant change for Wimbledon. Toyosi Olusanya, who had played so well in the club’s superb FA Youth Cup run, was rewarded with a first-team debut. Sean Rigg had earlier entered the fray for Ade Azeez.
It turned out be the day when that boy Olusanya grabbed the headlines. The young striker showed the trademark blinding pace that had been such a feature for the Under-18s this season when he burst through on the right flank and he was sent sprawling in the area by Andrew Hughes. The only option was a penalty, but more of a surprise perhaps was that Olusanya grabbed the ball and took responsibility at such a young age. It was a great penalty too as he placed a fine effort into the bottom corner from 12 yards. What a moment for the 18-year-old and fully deserved after his whirlwind progression through the ranks, Olusanya only picked up from college football last year.
Newport never really looked like conjuring up a response and it was a moment that Olusanya will never forget with his goal turning out to be the winner on his debut.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Will Nightingale, Ryan Sweeney, Callum Kennedy, Connor Smith (Tom Beere), David Fitzpatrick, Rhys Murphy (Toyosi Olusanya), Jake Reeves, Bayo Akinfenwa, Ade Azeez (Sean Rigg).