Development side defy a club hero
A flash of brilliance from Kevin Sainte-Luce and an impressive defensive display earned all three points for Wimbledon’s development side against Gillingham tonight.
Nineteen-year-old captain Will Nightingale (pictured) led a defiant effort at the back that denied Dons hero Danny Kedwell’s best efforts to secure a hard-fought 1-0 win in the Final Third Development League.
Alan Reeves’ side could take plenty of positives with 17-year-olds Ryan Sweeney, Callum Wilson and Ben Harrison all helping to stop an experienced Gillingham forward line that also included ex-QPR striker Antonio German. And when Gills did break through, goalkeeper Joe McDonnell produced a string of fine saves.
First-team managers Neal Ardley and Peter Taylor were interested spectators as both sides contributed to an entertaining match at Merstham. Though Gillingham had the greater experience in their ranks, the early exchanges were dominated by Wimbledon. Dan Agyei shot just over after a good team move and then Gills goalkeeper Glenn Morris was forced into his first save of the night to deny Billy Frost.
Centre-backs Nightingale and Sweeney coped well with the dual threat of Kedwell and German in the first 20 minutes. However, it needed right-back Callum Wilson to make a fine last-ditch clearance to stop Kedwell getting in at the far post. Sweeney also made a good block to deny German opening the scoring for Gills. Then Dons goalkeeper McDonnell made a routine save to deny Kedwell from the subsequent corner.
minute. There appeared to be little danger when Kevin Sainte-Luce picked up the ball on the right, but he cut inside and unleashed a superb drive with his left foot that arrowed into the roof of the net. A spirited reaction from Gillingham followed and the Dons were lucky on two occasions to survive. First, Kedwell’s soaring header bounced off the crossbar and then German’s powerful drive also crashed off the woodwork.thBoth sides had fashioned chances in the first quarter of this match without breaking the deadlock, but the first goal arrived in spectacular style in the 26
Wimbledon finished the half on top with David Fitzpatrick and Frost both impressing midfield. It was so close to 2-0 before half-time when George Oakley turned inside and cracked a shot just wide, before the young striker had an effort from close range deflected onto a post.
Gillingham started the second-half with plenty of possession, but Wimbledon’s young defence held firm. And the Dons had opportunities to seal it at the other end. Oakley, who was a constant menace for Gillingham’s defence, dispossessed Josh Staunton and that allowed Dan Agyei to march clear, but he delayed his shot and the chance was gone. Nightingale then provided one of the highlights of the second-half that showed he’s well over his injury problems. The towering defender made a brilliant interception before sending a lovely ball over the top, but Agyei shot just wide from an acute angle.
by McDonnell. In what had become a personal duel between Kedwell and McDonnell, the Dons goalkeeper just about came out on top. The young goalkeeper reacted superbly to save Kedwell’s header and then McDonnell did even better to tip the striker’s header onto the crossbar. The visitors made life difficult for Wimbledon midway through the second-half and they were only denied an equaliser by brilliant goalkeeping
Wimbledon had a chance to clinch it when Oakley broke down the wing and crossed well for Chace Jacquart, but he blazed over the crossbar. As the game advanced into the latter stages, McDonnell also denied Danny Galbrath after a free-kick had caught out Wimbledon. Sainte-Luce shot into the side netting with minutes remaining and Fitzpatrick also came close, but one was enough one again for Wiimbledon’s development to make it two successive wins.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Callum Wilson, Ben Harrison, Billy Frost, Will Nightingale, Ryan Sweeney, David Fitzpatrick, Dan Agyei (Jamal Branker), George Oakley, Chace Jacquart, Kevin Sainte-Luce.