A dramatic victory for the U-18s
A long trip to Torquay United brought the best out of AFC Wimbledon Under-18s with a last-gasp winner from Ollie Haines earning a place in the Youth Alliance Cup second round.
The young Dons deservedly won it at the death with substitute Haines (picture by Rob Cornell) sealing a dramatic 1-0 victory that signalled ecstatic celebrations from the whole squad.
minute when Egli Kaja fired against a post after good work by Callum Wilson. Though it was an evenly balanced first-half, the Dons had an appeal for a penalty turned down when Dan Agyei was sent sprawling in the box.th It was an early morning start for Wimbledon on the coach bound for Devon yesterday morning, but the journey did little to affect their overall performance and Wimbledon were almost in front in the 20
The Dons had to settle for being level at half-time after Callum Overton just failed to reach a lovely cross from Ben Harrison, who has slotted back in well at left-back after playing for the first-team at Aldershot recently.
minute in place of Jason Stripp as Mark Robinson gave game-time to all his squad.th minute and they were important substitutions too with match-winner Haines and Billy Frost entering the fray for Alfie Egan and Overton. Nez Bellikli was also introduced in the 65rd Wimbledon started the second-half with plenty of conviction and they were almost rewarded when Agyei shot wide after good link-up play from his strike partner Overton. Manager Mark Robinson made two changes in the 53
With Ryan Sweeney and Reece Batchelor producing resolute displays at the back and Dan Gallagher controlling central midfield, Wimbledon dominated the second-half. Agyei and Haines both came close to making the all-important breakthrough, before Kaja was denied by Torquay goalkeeper Dan Lavercombe after an excellent run by Bellikli.
When Agyei had an effort ruled out for offside, it appeared that a winner would elude Wimbledon. However, Haines changed all that with a storming end to the game. First, his superb run resulted in Levi Ives bringing him down just outside the box and that meant a sending off for the Torquay youngster. Though Lavercombe made a fantastic save to turn Frost’s free-kick onto a post, a second crucial contribution from Haines was still to come. The young wide player was found in space by Frost and after a powerful run his well-struck shot bounced in off the far post to earn a dramatic win for Wimbledon.
Mark Robinson said: “Obviously, it was a very long way to go in one day for a game of football, but we used it as an exercise for showing mental strength. I wanted the boys to forget about the journey and concentrate on preparing to win a football match. Their attitude and professionalism was excellent.
“We always looked more likely to score in the first-half, but in the second-half I thought we were excellent in everything that we did. We played with great variation and intensity. We missed a lot of chances, but I think that will come together soon as I’ve seen quality in the final third from the players in training. I would like to thank Neal Ardley and the club for organising a place to stop on the way to Torquay so that they could get decent food on the way down. That certainly helped with our preparation.”
Ryan Sweeney earned the man of the match award for Wimbledon.