AFC Wimbledon Under-18s end season on a high
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s produced a performance that highlighted their progress this season as they held league winners Colchester United on Saturday.
Hosts Colchester required just a point to win the Football League Youth Alliance South East section, but they only just scrambled a 1-1 draw in the end against a young Dons team that have showed stark improvement since they were knocked out of the FA Youth Cup 4-1 by the same side.
And the creditable draw means that the young Dons have ended their competitive season with a four-match unbeaten run.
Wimbledon made a bright start and they were almost rewarded when Egli Kaja, who scored the winner in the London Senior Cup semi-final recently, was denied by Colchester goalkeeper James Bransgrove after a fine team move.
Colchester gradually came into it with their highly-rated winger Dion Sembie-Ferris starting to stretch the Dons out wide and Louis Dunne’s midfield influence growing. That resulted in Colchester exerting plenty of pressure and winning several corners that tested Wimbledon’s resolve. Billy Bishop made a brilliant save to stop Dunne making the breakthrough and then Tariq Issa was also denied by the Dons goalkeeper. Dunne also hit a post before the break as the last 15 minutes of the first-half belonged to Colchester.
Wimbledon were the better side after the interval with Rob Switon, Roles and Ben Harrison in commanding form at the back and Danny Gallagher and Frost getting a grip in midfield once again. Man of the match Callum Overton (pictured) caused plenty of problems up front with his movement and with Oakley also a threat, space was created for Kaja, who again came close to making it 1-0 after a good team move.
and it was a great goal too as Taylor Roles met a Billy Frost corner with a superb header that found the top corner. Mark Robinson’s side came close to doubling their advantage when Oakley headed just over the crossbar after good work from Ollie Haines. However, Wimbledon never had to wait too much longer for the opener
Though substitute Nas Majeed was only denied a second by a fine save from Bransgrove, Colchester piled on the pressure in the last 15 minutes. And they finally earned an equaliser when a header from Issa just crossed the line despite Switon’s gallant attempt to clear off the line.
Despite that late setback, Academy Head Coach Mark Robinson was hugely encouraged by the performance.
“It was an excellent game of football and it really showed how far we’ve come this season,” said Mark. “Colchester has an excellent and productive academy so today’s performance showed the strides we’ve made individually and collectively. The boys are bitterly disappointed not to have won, but ultimately it’s about performances at this level and there was a lot to be positive about.
“Colchester’s Academy Manager Tony Humes was very complementary about our performance, which was nice, and I’d like to congratulate his team for winning the league.”