Reece Batchelor strike rounds off scoring
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s maintained their impressive recent form with a first-half display that proved too much for Gillingham on Saturday.
All the goals came before half-time with Reece Batchelor putting Wimbledon 3-0 up and it was a third successive victory for the Under-18s with nine goals scored and none conceded in the process. Dan Agyei struck twice at Gillingham to make it five goals in three games for the in-form striker.
Wimbledon opened the scoring after just five minutes at Gillingham with a devastating quick break after defending a corner. The usual tactic of leaving three players up front paid off as Ryan Sweeney won the header and Callum Wilson hooked clear to set-up a counter-attack. Ollie Haines and Billy Frost played a lovely one-two that set-up Agyei, who drove forward and finished clinically past Chris Haigh from 14 yards.
Though the Dons had to defend resolutely to defy a spirited Gillingham response, Sweeney was in commanding form at the back and Danny Gallagher remained a pivotal presence in midfield. Wimbledon doubled their advantage on the half hour mark when Alfie Egan flicked on a Billy Bishop long kick to put Agyei through and he rounded Haigh before finishing off well from an acute angle.
With Frost and Egan becoming increasingly influential in midfield, the Dons ended the first 45 minutes strongly and that brought a third goal before half-time. Agyei flicked on another long ball from Bishop and Haines set-up Batchelor, who produced a sublime first touch and drove forward before lifting the ball expertly over Haigh from 12 yards.
Wimbledon started the second-half brightly and it appeared that they would add more goals before the hour mark. However, they suffered a blow when Sweeney had to go off injured and that meant substitute Jason Stripp had to fill an unfamiliar wing-back role with Batchelor dropping into the back three. The Dons struggled to build on their promising start to the second-half and the game lacked cohesion.
With 25 minutes to go, manager Mark Robinson brought on 15-year-old Reece Williams-Bowers for Egan, who had produced one of his best performances for the Under-18s. Then Dan Ano replaced Haines, who had been a constant threat.
It needed good defending from Ian Smith, Taylor Roles, Batchelor and captain Gallagher to maintain Wimbledon’s three-goal lead, but Agyei could have sealed his hat-trick near the end when he nearly reached a wonderful cross from Wilson.
Mark Robinson said: “I had mixed feelings about this performance. It’s obviously good to keep a clean sheet and win away at Gillingham, but we are a lot better than that. We had our moments and we made it look so easy at times, but it didn’t happen enough and some of our play was sloppy in its execution. The result did not hide the fact that some things were not good enough, but it also highlighted what we got right.
“To be fair, we are down to the bare bones at the moment due to injuries to a few regulars and a couple of players were playing in unfamiliar positions. But we are more than good enough as a group to cope with that.”
Ian Smith received the man of the match award for Wimbledon.
The picture above was taken by Rob Cornell.