Manager encouraged despite Southend defeat
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s just failed to round off their 2014 fixtures with a positive result against Southend, but manager Mark Robinson said it had been a very encouraging spell for developing young talent at the academy.
Goals from Dan Ano and Dan Agyei were just not enough to prevent a 3-2 home defeat in a game that was Wimbledon’s fourth in just nine days.
During this spell, Mark has had to regularly reshuffle his side with Under-16s gaining experience in the Football League Youth Alliance League.
“Following Thursday afternoon’s win at Dagenham, I freshened the side up, but with several Under-18s now playing at development level or gaining experience in the first-team squad, some of our players looked tired in the second half,” said Mark. “Although they gave everything, it affected their decision-making and quality on the ball. However, I was pleased with our first-half performance because we looked a threat against a very good side.
“In the second-half we really dug in to stay in the game and it would have been nice for the players to have got the draw for all their efforts. Despite the loss, it’s been a very positive couple of weeks for the academy. Under-18s have made up half the team in recent development matches and have helped to win games at that level against more experienced sides. At the same time, I’ve been able to put out young sides and once these players gain more experience we will be more than competitive at Under-18 level with a young team.
“There is no doubt that we have by far the youngest development squad in our games programme and I’m sure that will be the same with our Under-18s in the coming months. There’s plenty of hard work still to be done, but it shows how far we’re progressing as an academy that Under-18s are getting opportunities from Alan Reeves and Neal Ardley.”
The young Dons fought back impressively on Saturday against Southend after falling behind early on. Man of the match Billy Frost, who played for the development side in a win against Luton four days earlier, was the instigator. After receiving a pass from Jason Stripp, Frost (pictured left above with Mark Robinson) put a lovely ball through for Ano, who drove home superbly from 22 yards after a fine run at Southend’s defence.
Egli Kaja, Ano and Neset Bellikli continued to offer constant threats, while Reece Batchelor and Ollie Haines provided good width on the wings. However, Southend dominated the first 20 minutes after half-time and they were rewarded with a second goal.
A spirited response followed from Wimbledon and the hosts equalised through a fine team goal 10 minutes from time. Substitute Tayshan Hayden-Smith, Egli Kaja and Frost combined to find Agyei in space and he curled home into the top corner from 11 yards.
It appeared that the Dons had salvaged a hard-earned point, but there was a sting in the tail to come as Southend struck what turned out to be the winner two minutes from time.