Young Dons hit top form at Northampton
Egli Kaja led the end of season charge for AFC Wimbledon Under-18s as the young Dons turned on the style at Northampton on Saturday.
Kaja (pictured), who signed his first professional contract a day earlier, was quick off the mark in a 4-0 victory with Dan Ano also on target.
The other two goals also came from players who could be a big part of Wimbledon’s future with Paul Kalambayi and Anthony Hartigan netting. Kalambayi and Hartigan, along with Antonio Walker and George Marchant, were presented to the crowd at half-time of Saturday’s match versus Wycombe after signing scholarships with the club.
Callum Wilson, who also signed a pro deal on Friday, and Kaja offered relative experience at this level with both having moved up to the development squad this season.
Manager Mark Robinson said: “We were very short on numbers so Alan Reeves gave me back second year scholars Callum and Egli. Though they are both only 17, they added a little bit of experience to the squad and I think that played a part in the emphatic result. We have been impressive lately, but the squad has been very young with several Under-15s and Under-16s called up in recent weeks.
“Once we got into our rhythm and started trusting each other, we played very good football on a difficult surface and two of our goals were very well worked. We played a 3-4-3 and they struggled with our rotation. Neset Bellikli caused them all sorts of problems when we got him on the ball in advanced areas. The second half was nowhere near as good, but when you go 4-0 up that tends to happen as players start to over complicate the game. There is no excuse for that though and they need to be more intelligent than that.
“One player who did keep it simple was U-15 Anthony Hartigan, who scored a wonder goal, but he also played with a football intelligence and composure way beyond his years.”
minute. McKillopp switched the play with a brilliant 50-yard pass to pick out Bellikli and he put over a fine cross that Ano met first time to score the second in style.thThe young Dons marched into the lead after five minutes when Jason Stripp, Hartigan and Bellikli combined to set-up Kaja and he finished clinically from 10 yards. With Stripp, Hartigan and Seanan McKillop controlling midfield, Wimbledon dominated and it was 2-0 in the 27
The defender picked himself up and showed plenty of composure to confidently slot home the penalty. It was then time for 15-year-old Hartigan to take centre stage as he fainted past one challenge and let fly with a 25-yard effort that arrowed into the top right hand corner to leave the Northampton goalkeeper with no chance. The best was still to come from Wimbledon. Latching onto a half cleared corner from Bellikli, Kalambayi showed the balance of an attacking player to skip past his marker with a lovely piece of skill, before he was scythed down in the area.
The Dons came out for the second-half with 15-year-old Tino Carperne replacing Ano as part of a switch to a back four. Following a slow start, U-16s Judah Chapman and Antonio Walker were both introduced with McKillop and Bellikli both feeling unwell. Though the Dons did play with more energy, they struggled to recapture their first half flow and they needed goalkeeper Will Mannion to make two very good saves to preserve a clean sheet. A fifth goal did not arrive with Carperne and Kaja both having near misses, but it failed to take the shine off an impressive finish to the competitive season.
Anthony Hartigan was man of the match for Wimbledon.