AFC Wimbledon clinched the London Senior Cup in style tonight on an evening that promised so much for the club’s future.
George Oakley and Tom Beere celebrated being offered professional contracts with superb goals and Wimbledon’s young squad, consisting mainly of club academy products, earned an impressive 2-1 win to lift the cup (picture above by Charlie Kemp).
AFC Wimbledon’s young squad came into this match with a feel-good factor after it was announced that Will Nightingale, Chace Jacquart, Oakley and Beere had been offered professional contracts. With 16-year-olds Egli Kaja and Ryan Sweeney also aiming to create a favourable impression alongside first-teamers Chris Arthur and Jim Fenlon in front of the watching Neal Ardley, there was plenty of incentive for a young Wimbledon side.
With silverware also up for grabs, it was therefore no surprise that both sides competed strongly from the first whistle. Arthur had the first meaningful shot with a powerful drive from a free-kick 20 yards out, but his effort was too close to Metropolitan Police goalkeeper Stuart Searle. At the other end, Seb Brown had to be quickly off his line to deny Matt Pattison from opening the scoring. And it needed Wimbledon’s young centre-back pairing of Nightingale and Sweeney to hold firm at the back to defy a direct approach from the hosts.
Wimbledon created the first real opportunity in the 16th minute when Oakley won possession just inside the opposition half and put a good ball through for Beere, who powered through and let fly with a well struck shot that Searle turned behind. With Wimbledon enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Metropolitan Police were restricted to hitting the Dons on the break. They did manage to get in a couple of times down the left flank and Seb Brown again had to be quick off his line to deny Bradley Hudson-Odoi.
The Dons enjoyed a decent spell before half-time and twice threatened to conjure up the opener. First, Jacquart broke free down the right and sent over a superb cross that just eluded everyone when any touch would have meant a certain goal. Then on the stroke of half-time Wimbledon came even closer when Rob Switon headed on a cross and Jacquart was just foiled by Searle.
It took less than two minutes into the second-half though for Wimbledon to break the deadlock. Harry Cooksley sent through a great long ball over the top and Oakley was onto it in a flash, before he expertly flicked the ball over Searle and steered into an empty net for a lovely opener. It’s often said in football though that teams are most vulnerable when they’ve just scored and that was certainly the case for Wimbledon. Barely a minute after opening the scoring Met Police defender Steve Sutherland rattled the crossbar and then Seb Brown denied Richard Joseph after another cross had been swung in.
However, the Dons really started to click into gear after surviving those scares. Met Police struggled to cope with excellent play from the likes of Jacquart, Oakley and Cooksley. Jacquart had a goal-bound effort charged down and impressive attacking midfielder Beere was denied by Searle. Oakley, who had been a constant menace throughout, then produced a smart turn to go clean through, but his shot was too high on this occasion.
Arthur impressed at full-back, particularly when he supported Cooksley in attack down the left flank, and he sent over a lovely cross that Oakley just failed to reach. However, it was not too long for a sizeable Wimbledon support to celebrate the clincher – and what a goal it was too. Beere latched onto a half-cleared free-kick and though his initial effort was blocked, there was no stopping his follow-up as he blasted home from an acute angle.
Oakley was substituted with six minutes to go after a job well done with Dan Agyei entering the fray and Met Police appearing to be killed off now.
However, it was far from a case of Wimbledon cruising home towards glory as Charlie Collins fired home emphatically during injury-time. That set-up a grandstand finish with Met Police piling on the pressure and appealing for a penalty, but the referee was unimpressed and Shaun North’s Wimbledon side deservedly held on to end their season on a high.
AFC Wimbledon: Seb Brown, Jim Fenlon, Chris Arthur, Rob Switon, Will Nightingale, Ryan Sweeney, Egli Kaja (Billy Frost), Tom Beere, George Oakley (Dan Agyei), Chace Jacquart, Harry Cooksley.