Young defenders earn plaudits from Alan Reeves
Wimbledon’s young defenders have earned praise from coach Alan Reeves after their impressive performances in last night’s development match against Luton Town.
Seventeen-year-olds Ryan Sweeney, Callum Wilson (pictured) and Ben Harrison have stepped up to development and first-team level this season and 19-year-old Will Nightingale has shown promise after putting his injury problems behind him.
Alan Reeves said: “Luton had scored a lot of goals at development level this season, but they only scored one in two games against us and that was a wonder goal. We had three 17-year-olds and a 19-year-old at the back, but as a defensive unit they are helping each other out. They are getting better and better with each game. All four of them have little issues, but I know what I have to work on as a coach with them. They are all willing learners too and that’s important.
“When I first came in as development coach I had five Under-21s, including our goalkeeper Joe McDonnell. I’ve had a chance to look at the Under-18s during my first five months here and we identified lads who were capable of stepping up. That has paid off and they’ve all stepped up to the mark.
“They have been brought through in the right way and are disciplined off the field too, which is a testament to Mark Robinson’s work. Joe is also improving game by game as a goalkeeper and is commanding his box more. The lads are starting to put into practice what we’ve worked on during training. I thought we did brilliantly last night overall. We showed good work-rate and bits of quality. We had a fair bit of experience in there last night, but Luton had four or five senior players out too and we limited them to a few half chances.”
The Under-18s host Burnley in the FA Youth Cup third round this Thursday (7.00 pm start) and Alan believes that players involved in his development squad will really benefit when stepping back down to academy football.
Alan added that trialist Jamal Branker, who scored the winner last night, will be given another chance against Gillingham next Tuesday.
“Jamal did really well in training and he was due to start last night, but after the Wycombe game Ade Azeez asked if he could play,” Alan said. “Jamal therefore came on for the last half an hour and did well. He will train with us later in the week and we will see what he can do from the start against Gillingham.”