Under-21s beat Gillingham in Premier League Cup
Goals from Youssouf Bamba and Chris Arthur earned the exciting prospect of a Premier League Cup tie at QPR for Wimbledon’s youngsters.
It was a night when everything went to plan for AFC Wimbledon as the Under-21s got vital match experience at the Cherry Red Records Stadium and four first-teamers enhanced their claims by helping the Dons to a 2-0 victory.
The Dons lined up with Seb Brown, Kevin Sainte-Luce, Will Antwi and Chris Arthur all in their starting line-up, but it was Bamba (pictured) who provided the crucial breakthrough 11 minutes after the break.
Wimbledon started brightly and Sainte-Luce, who had terrorised Scunthorpe United’s defence in his last match at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, wasted no time doing the same to Gillingham’s young back-line as he burst through with a fine solo run and his subsequent shot was deflected just wide. With the likes of fellow French forward Bamba, Arthur and Harry Cooksley joining Sainte-Luce in attack, there was no shortage of forward options. Bamba showed what he was capable of with one dazzling surge down the left and his cross was certainly in the right area, but no one was able to get on the end of it.
Gillingham showed that breaking them down was going to be a far from easy task for Wimbledon and the visitors also established a fair share of possession. However, there had been plenty to enthuse about from the hosts in the first half hour. With Chace Jacquart and Tom Beere pulling the strings in midfield, Wimbledon twice came close to breaking the deadlock on the half hour. First, Sainte-Luce produced another dazzling run and his subsequent shot was turned onto a post by Gillingham goalkeeper George Howard. Then Howard reacted sharply to turn away a header from Will Nightingale after he got on the end of corner from Beere. Though Gillingham certainly had a fair share of possession in the first-half, Seb Brown was not required to make a meaningful save until he got down low and held an effort from former QPR forward Antonio German.
Wiimbledon were the more incisive team in the first-half though and Cooksley tested Howard again with a fine strike from the edge of the area just before half-time.
minute with a goal that was certainly worth waiting for. Bamba pounced on a mistake by Devante McKain and beat goalkeeper Howard with a lovely piece of skill, before holding off Gillingham challenges to fire home low into the empty net.th minute as he parried Ashley Miller’s strike and then reacted well to save Nathan Nyafli’s follow-up. However, Brown was beaten three minutes later when German rounded the Wimbledon goalkeeper, but Nightingale produced a last-gasp clearance off the line. Nightingale, who had looked the part at centre-back, was certainly up for the challenge and he did a good job of denying German. Indeed, Nightingale’s key contribution was made to look even more important when Wimbledon opened the scoring in the 56thGillingham started the second-half strongly and it needed Seb Brown to make a fine double save in the 49
First-teamers Sainte-Luce and Antwi were both withdrawn just before the hour after good work-outs with George Oakley and Oluseyi Daley both entering the fray.
Gillingham’s response to going behind showed that this match was far from over though and it needed Brown to make a fine save with his feet to deny Nyafli. The visitors came even closer minutes later when Josh Hare’s soaring header struck the crossbar. In a tough spell for the Dons, Brown then made his best save so far when he reacted superbly to tip over German’s flying header. However, the contest was effectively over eight minutes from time when Wimbledon sealed it in fine style. Oakley’s perseverance won a free-kick 20 yards out and Arthur found the bottom corner with an emphatic curler that left Howard with no chance. That made it a safe passage into the second qualifying round of the competition for Wimbledon and it was a fully deserved victory in the end.
AFC Wimbledon: Seb Brown, Kieron Tarbie, Charlie Fayers, Chace Jacquart, Will Antwi (Oluseyi Daley), Will Nightingale, Harry Cooksley, Tom Beere, Kevin Sainte-Luce (George Oakley), Youssouf Bamba, Chris Arthur (Dan Pearse).