AFC Wimbledon Under-18s manager Mark Robinson felt his squad let victory slip through their grasp against Northampton, but he’s pleased with the progress they’ve shown in recent weeks.
A 2-1 defeat against the Cobblers ended a four-match winning streak for Wimbledon’s youngsters and on Saturday they had looked set to make it five against a Northampton side currently top of the EFL Youth Alliance South East table (highlights of the game can be viewed by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page).
In a first-half dominated by the Dons, Ayoub Assal, who was outstanding on the day, missed two chances and plenty of other chances went begging. At the other end, Archie Proctor and Jack Madelin marshalled the defence expertly, while Elliot Bolton gave the Dons control in midfield. The second-half started in the same vein for Wimbledon and in the 47th minute a lovely slick move opened the scoring. Bolton found Bobby Mills, who sent though an exquisite first-time pass that released Assal and he finished clinically.
It all looked so good from a Dons perspective at this point, but Northampton started to press high and Wimbledon failed to adapt. Subsequently, a succession of corners and set pieces in a 15-minute spell resulted in two goals for the visitors. It finished 2-1 to the league leaders and left the young Dons to reflect on what might have been with so many positives in their performances, both individually and collectively.
“I was really upset for the lads,” said Mark Robinson. “In the first-half we were good. We were not at our best, but we had the better chances. We scored a great goal to go 1-0 up, but we’ve lost the game in a 15-minute spell. I’d told the boys what to expect because we know what Northampton are like. Our boys got frustrated after their equaliser. Our players didn’t recognise what Northampton were doing and it was a 15-minute spell where we lost the game. We had a very young squad out and I didn’t want to give them the answers from the sidelines during that spell. I wanted to tease it out of them, but they lost their heads a little bit due to what was going on out on the pitch. That has cost them, but they are hurting and fingers-crossed that they learn from it, because we were the better side and we should have won.”
“I am really pleased with the recent improvement. We are playing some good football and we had won four games on the spin. Though Northampton are top, the boys were confident that it was going to continue. To be fair, I thought it was too after we went 1-0 up. We looked very much in control. It’s all part of their development. You don’t want to lose a game and lose it in that way, but you have to keep looking at the bigger picture and realise that it’s part of their development. That’s what we will do and they will keep learning.”
Highlights from the Northampton match are available to watch below.