Egli Kaja goal is not enough for young Dons
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s bowed out of the FA Youth Cup tonight after a much-improved second-half fightback failed to deny Burnley.
The hosts appeared to be on the way to a resounding defeat after Burnley marched into a 2-0 lead, but Egli Kaja (pictured) got one back and there was a sense of what might have been as Wimbledon got going too late to avoid a 2-1 loss.
Mark Robinson’s side were not short of support in this third round tie as a decent crowd of 598 spectators were in attendance, including Dons players from the younger academy teams and they made plenty of noise on the night.
It was a difficult start for the young Dons as visitors Burnley showed their quality early on. Billy Bishop was twice required to make saves, first when he denied Jamie Frost and then he came out well to stop Burnley striker Ntumba Massanka. Wimbledon struggled to relieve the pressure as Burnley dominated possession and only an Alfie Egan shot from 20 yards tested Burnley goalkeeper Tony Agahare.
. However, there was no stopping Burnley in the 33rd minute. Jackson showed a dashing turn of foot down the right and he swung over a lovely cross that Massanka headed home emphatically.Captain Billy Frost offered flashes of promise, in particular when he almost picked out Dan Agyei with a clever through ball, but the Dons struggled to put Burnley under sustained pressure. The visitors were much more fluent in attack and Bradley Jackson struck a fierce drive against the crossbar
Wimbledon needed a quick reaction to get back into it, but they had a mountain to climb just minutes later when Burnley earned a 2-0 lead. This time Jackson was the man to finish it as he met Jamie Frost’s cross with a brilliant glancing header that left Bishop with no chance.
Wimbledon needed to show more attacking invention to get back into this match, but there was plenty of encouragement from the sidelines with around 300 youngsters from the academy’s younger teams making plenty of noise. It was an improved Wimbledon display after the break and they had their best spell midway through the second-half. Agyei, who had gone off to receive treatment, almost created a goal seconds after coming back on when his through ball was just too far for Ollie Haines, who was foiled by Agahare.
With Burnley goalscorer Massanka having to depart the action injured, the visitors did not have as much threat in the second-half. And Neset Bellikli almost got the Dons back into it with a powerful 25-yard drive that just flashed over the crossbar. However, it should have been all over 17 minutes from time when Andy Nugent sent over a dangerous cross from the left that found Khius Metz just six yards out, but he headed wide.
Burnley were made to pay for their profligacy with 11 minutes left as Wimbledon got one back in stunning style. Just seconds after great goalkeeping from Bishop had foiled Metz, Wimbledon had a goal to celebrate. Agyei played a fine defence-splitting pass through for Kaja, who produced a lovely low finish past Agahare. All of a sudden Wimbledon had Burnley forced back for a sustained spell and the home side could have earned an equaliser just minutes later. Callum Wilson delivered a dangerous cross from the left that just eluded everyone, but Ollie Haines swung it back in and Kaja just failed to get enough on his header to convert.
Wimbledon needed Taylor Roles to clear off the line and set-up a grandstand finale with the referee adding six minutes at the end. The closest the Dons came was when Jason Stripp fashioned a shooting chance on the edge of the area for Billy Frost, but his shot was too close to Agahare. It was not to be for Wimbledon, but at least Mark Robinson’s side exited the competition with a second-half fightback that salvaged pride on their big night.
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s: Billy Bishop, Ian Smith (Reece Batchelor), Taylor Roles, Ryan Sweeney, Callum Wilson, Alfie Egan (Jason Stripp), Egli Kaja, Billy Frost, Dan Agyei, Neset Bellikli (Dan Ano), Ollie Haines.