A reshuffled squad earns praise after loss
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s resumed their league campaign with a defeat against Stevenage on Saturday, but manager Mark Robinson took consolation from his side’s performance.
Following on from last Tuesday’s excellent FA Youth Cup win at Gillingham, Wimbledon suffered a 2-1 home loss, but Mark had several regulars missing and he was pleased with the efforts of younger players stepping up from the Under-16s.
“With a lot of our boys training with the Under-21s ahead of a fixture at Portsmouth on Tuesday and Ryan Sweeney on the bench for the first-team, it was a chance for other players to step up to the mark,” said Mark. “It’s never good to lose a game of football, but I have to say that I was very pleased with the mentality of our players.
“I would have liked more quality at times, but the few second year scholars who did play led by example and the younger boys worked extremely hard. They showed the sort of passion I expect from a young Wimbledon side. I’ve not always seen that when we’ve had to reshuffle the squad so it was pleasing. Looking at the bigger picture, we will have several players involved for the Under-21s and Ryan has followed in Ben Harrison’s footsteps by being involved at first-team level.
“With such progression, there will always be a dip in results, but if the boys maintain the same work ethic then I don’t think it will be long before we turn things around. Our young goalkeeper Will Mannion deserves credit for his performance. I’ve been quite firm with him lately about what is expected and so too has Ashley Bayes. However, when called upon against Stevenage, Will’s performance was of the very highest quality.”
Wimbledon included two 15-year-olds in their squad on Saturday with Judah Chapman stepping up for the first time to join Reece Williams-Bowers in gaining experience at Football League Youth Alliance level.
goal of 2014/15.st Stevenage opened the scoring after 20 minutes, but there was a positive response from Wimbledon with man of the match Billy Frost (pictured), Alfie Egan and Williams-Bowers all starting to influence matters in midfield. It was not long before Wimbledon drew level and it was another goal to savour from Dan Agyei. The striker, who came third in a national competition for the best academy goals in October, beat three players and finished expertly from 14 yards to strike his 21
minute in controversial fashion. Wimbledon claimed that Frost had been fouled on the edge of the area and that a subsequent foul on a Stevenage player occurred outside the box. However, the penalty was converted and that left the hosts with plenty of work to do.nd Egan, Bowers and Egli Kaja all came close to putting Wimbledon in front as the hosts dominated before the break. However, Stevenage regained control after half-time and they secured a 2-1 lead in the 62
Jason Stripp and Chapman were both introduced for Egan and Dan Ano respectively in an effort to turn it around. It was all Wimbledon in the latter stages with Frost’s incisive passing making things happen.
The Dons came so close to a late leveller after fine combination play between Neset Bellikli, Bowers and Stripp, but Kaja was just unable to force the ball over the line after a goalmouth scramble. Kaja then came even closer after winning a penalty himself with a brilliant run down the right flank. However, Kaja’s clean strike from 12 yards was brilliantly saved by the Stevenage goalkeeper and that meant a defeat that was harsh on the day for Wimbledon.