Under-18s produced an excellent display says coach
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s provided further evidence of their progress this season by edging out Crystal Palace in an entertaining friendly match on Saturday.
Goals from Ollie Haines, Callum Overton (pictured) and Harlan Basker earned a 3-2 win to extend Wimbledon’s unbeaten run to seven matches.
The young Dons faced a stern test of their credentials with Palace fielding three youth internationals in their side. However, Wimbledon started with an intensity that suggested they were up for the challenge and they took the lead in spectacular style after 22 minutes. The impressive Taylor Roles won possession at the back and picked out Ollie Haines, who took one touch to steady himself before striking a brilliant 25-yard volley that left Palace goalkeeper Tom King with no chance.
With Dan Agyei a constant menace on the right flank and captain Dan Pearse, Billy Frost and Haines controlling midfield, it was no surprise when Wimbledon doubled their advantage. Haines was the instigator as he delivered a perfect ball for Agyei, who beat King to it and unselfishly set-up Overton to make it 2-0.
Palace showed their quality in abundance four minutes after the break with England Under-17 international Mandela Egbo scoring a superb solo goal to reduce the deficit. With Palace threatening an equaliser, Mark Robinson made changes with Basker replacing Overton, Chris Vleitinck on for Pearse and Nas Majeed replacing the excellent Agyei.
The changes revitalised Wimbledon and Majeed made an instant impression by dribbling through midfield and striking a shot that King could only parry and Basker made no mistake to make it 3-1. Haines and Egli Kaja both had goals ruled out for offside and Basker volleyed against the woodwork after good work by Ben Harrison as Wimbledon continued to dominate. However, Palace earned a late consolation in the last minute of normal time in bizarre circumstances when Harrison’s clearance bounced off a Palace player and looped over Billy Bishop. It was harsh on Harrison and Bishop as the pair had both been excellent throughout and Academy Head Coach Mark Robinson said the late goal perhaps flattered Palace.
“The fact that the boys are disappointed that they only won 3-2 against a Premier League club’s Under-18s says everything about our progression,” said Mark. “I thought we were excellent in every aspect apart from some of our finishing, which meant we could not put the game beyond Palace.
“The second-half lacked a bit of intensity at times, but we still fashioned great chances with inventive and brave football.”
Ollie Haines earned the Man of the Match award for Wimbledon.