Dons show fighting spirit in Colchester defeat
It was always going to be a tough task for Wimbledon Under-18s last night against a Colchester side defending a 12-match winning streak and with players in their ranks with League 1 experience.
And so it proved as captain Samuel Szmodics and Macauley Bonne, two players with first-team experience put the visitors 3-0 up after 25 minutes. However, Academy Manager Mark Robinson took consolation from his side’s fighting spirit as they battled back to make a game of it before Colchester substitute Thomas Lapslie killed them off to earn a 4-1 win for the visitors.
The Dons set their stall out with an intriguing 3-4-1-2 formation against formidable opposition. Billy Frost deservedly earned praise from his manager for his performance on the night as he slotted in behind a front two of George Oakley (pictured) and Callum Overton from the outset.
A difficult task quickly became even tougher for Wimbledon with merely 18 seconds on the clock. The Essex visitors were quick off the mark as Szmodics gave them an early lead and the ideal start to the contest.
Wimbledon’s response was near perfect and just what Robinson was looking for from his side. In the 4th minute, Oakley produced a shot from just outside the area that tested Colchester goalkeeper Ronnie Carroll, who had to be at full stretch to tip the ball around a post. Oakley then followed up with a further effort that just failed to reduce the arrears.
minute. Promising striker Bonne, who has scored twice for the first-team this season, scored with a powerful header from a cross to leave the Dons with a mountain to climb.thHowever, Colchester doubled their advantage in the 10
In the 18th minute Dons goalkeeper Billy Bishop got down to block from Szmodics, who required treatment. Their influential skipper departed shortly after and he was replaced by Thomas Monk. Colchester pressed on regardless and looked to have put matters out of sight seven minutes later. Bonne notched his second after moving down the flank and hitting a low shot to beat Bishop with just 25 minutes on the clock.
minute after a well-executed pass from Overton was latched onto by Oakley and he was brought down by Carroll for a penalty. Captain Dan Pearse, who was sent off in the competition last season against Cheltenham, ensured there would be no more personal anguish for him by striking the subsequent penalty low past Carroll.ndThe Dons showed good spirit in adversity though and earned a lifeline in the 32
Seven minutes before the break Bishop’s goal was again under siege. Ryan Sweeney produced a goal- line clearance for a corner, before Monk then found the foot of a post and then Bishop pulled off a save to prevent a fourth.
On the stroke of half-time came the game’s talking point as Wimbledon thought they had produced what seemed near impossible only minutes earlier by reducing the gap to just one goal at half-time. Frost set-up Oakley, who finished well, but the celebrations were cut short when the assistant’s flag was raised. First-team manager Neal Ardley broke off from sitting with his staff in the main stand and raced down the tunnel on hearing the half-time whistle to offer his support and experience during the break.
Colchester introduced Thomas Lapslie after the break and it proved to be an effective return to action as on the hour he restored their three-goal advantage. From a pretty much central position outside the area, Lapslie curled a free-kick around Bishop to set-up a tie with Plymouth.
Though Wimbledon conceded no further goals in the second-half and Bishop grew in confidence as the game went on, they failed to pick up the momentum they had shown in the first period that had so nearly got them back into the match. There was a further blow after the final whistle as injured defender Rob Switon had to be carried off the field by team-mates.
It had been a testing night for Wimbledon’s youngsters, but one look at a certain pre-season match during pre-season when they lost 7-1 to Colchester shows that progress has been made during 2013/14.
AFC Wimbledon: Billy Bishop, Rob Switon, Ben Harrison, Danny Gallagher (Ollie Haines), Ryan Sweeney, Dan Pearse, Callum Wilson (Naseem Majeed), Billy Frost, George Oakley, Callum Overton (Daniel Ageyi), Egli Kaja. Subs not used; Taylor Roles, Chris Vleitinck.