A gallant defeat earns high praise from manager
Under-18s manager Mark Robinson said he had never felt so upbeat about a defeat after his side pushed title contenders Leyton Orient all the way.
With several regular U-18s required for the development squad match on Monday, nine youngsters from Michael Hamilton’s combined U15s/U16s squad were called up for action and they equipped themselves well with Orient just scrambling a 1-0 win.
Mark Robinson said: “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so positive about a loss. The performance warranted at least a draw, but more importantly we were taking on Orient’s strongest U-18 line-up with predominantly a team of 14-16 year-old players. The performances from our U-15 and U-16 lads were outstanding and that is a real credit to the work that Michael Hamilton is doing with that age group.
“Despite giving away two or three years in terms of physical development, their talent, desire and game understanding really stood out. The progression right the way through to the first-team is very encouraging right now. If these young boys continue to show the right work ethic, loyalty and willingness to learn I will feel very optimistic about our future home grown talent.”
Indeed, with man of the match Reece Williams-Bowers (pictured) showing his potential once again and U-15 Tino Carperne a constant threat up front, the young Dons deserved more than a gallant defeat in this Football League Youth Alliance Merit League match.
It was so close to being 1-0 to the Dons after just five minutes when Dan Ano whipped in an excellent cross that was inches away from being converted by Alfie Egan. The combination of Judah Chapman, Williams-Bowers and Carperne caused all sorts of problems for Orient. Carperne came so close to the opener when he beat Orient goalkeeper Ben Card, but he took too long over his finish and Jack Humphrey was able to get back and clear.
Orient made the Dons pay for their profligacy Montel Agyemang pounced on a loose ball and cracked home emphatically. However, the response from Wimbledon was really positive and they should have had a penalty when Carperne latched onto a through ball from Anthony Hartigan and knocked the ball past Card, but he was sent sprawling by a high challenge from the Orient goalkeeper. However, the referee thought otherwise and pointed for a goal kick.
Will Mannion was required to stay alert as Orient tried their luck from distance on a few occasions, but the Dons remained just one goal down as the half-time whistle shrilled.
With Dan Agyei doing a good job as an emergency centre back and Reece Batchelor and Paul Kalambayi also impressing in defence, the Dons remained resolute during a spell of Orient pressure. With an hour gone the Dons made a change with Carperne substituted as he was still feeling the effects of that earlier challenge and he was replaced by 14-year-old Ethan Roberts. Antonio Walker also replaced the excellent Judah Chapman.
The Dons finished strongly in the last 20 minutes with Agyei pushed up front, Williams-Bowers causing problems on the flank and Jason Stripp marshalling the midfield brilliantly. Egan, Kalambayi, Williams-Bowers and Agyei all came close, but Mannion had to make an incredible save to keep Wimbledon in it.
When Orient goalkeeper Card pulled off an equally good save to deny Agyei, it was clearly not going to be Wimbledon’s day. However, it was an overall display that promised so much for the future.