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Dons suffer gallant defeat

17 March 2014

Under-18s beaten narrowly by Northampton

AFC Wimbledon Under-18s came up just short in their bid to complete an excellent away double as they suffered a narrow defeat at Northampton on Saturday.

Following their win at Portsmouth last week, the young Dons paid the price for an early lapse with a goal from Northampton’s Ryan Cooke after 10 minutes earning a 1-0 victory for the hosts. Wimbledon’s preparations for the match were far from ideal as the team coach broke down on the way and that meant just 20 minutes to get changed and warmed up beforehand.

Academy Head Coach Mark Robinson took encouragement from his side’s display after a shaky start. The Dons were put under pressure early on with highly-rated centre forward Kieran Fitzgerald, a player with first-team experience, and Callum Powell, proving tough to handle. However, Wimbledon gradually came into the match with man of the match Egli Kaja (pictured) creating their best chance before the break. Kaja produced a fine run and cross that provided Danny Gallagher with a shooting chance, but he fired over the crossbar.

Wimbledon began to dominate in terms of possession and chances after the break. The impressive Kaja was at the heart of his side’s improvement and more good work from him set-up the in-form Dan Agyei, but Northampton goalkeeper Ben Heath got down well to save. Heath also had to make fine saves to deny Dan Pearse and substitute Harlan Basker, before Kaja had his goal-bound shot from 10 yards. Renato Morais made an immediate impression after entering as a late substitute, but Wimbledon’s late pressure failed to yield reward and they had to settle for a gallant defeat.

Mark Robinson said: “The boys are really disappointed about losing, but I’ve tried to get their heads up straight away. We tried to play football on a very difficult surface and when we got it right we looked very good. Northampton were very well organised, but apart from the goal we defended well against a direct style. We need to be cleverer with our runs in the final third as our movement is a bit predictable and often we close down each other’s space. Today was about as much satisfaction as I will ever get from a defeat though. We really tried hard to implement what we’ve worked on in training and be brave in our playing out from the back.”

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