Young Dons off the mark on opening day
AFC Wimbledon U-18s made light of an early Saturday start for Cambridge by starting their Football League Youth Alliance campaign with a win.
A 6.45 am departure time on the coach mattered little for the young Dons with goals from Toby Sibbick and Dan Ano (pictured) earning an impressive 2-1 victory.
Wimbledon had the majority of possession in the first 30 minutes, without finding the cutting edge to match and the visitors were fortunate when Cambridge had an effort that struck a post.
There was a setback for the Dons before half-time when Judah Chapman was injured after being brought down on the edge of the area and he had to be replaced by Antonio Walker.
Despite Cambridge creating a few opportunities, Wimbledon held the upper hand in the first half and earned the reward of an opening goal just before the break. Man of the Match Jayden Antwi won a free-kick that was superbly delivered by Reece Williams-Bowers and Sibbick headed home brilliantly from eight yards.
It was 2-0 just 10 minutes after the break when Jason Stripp and Walker combined to set Ano free and he powered through before finishing clinically from 16 yards.
With Stripp and Alfie Egan controlling midfield and Dom Bongo, Paul Kalambayi and Sibbick in command at the back, Wimbledon continued to dominate. Antwi so nearly killed off Cambridge when his shot from 14 yards was brilliantly saved.
Goalkeeper Will Mannion appeared to be fouled in the area from a corner, but with everyone waiting for the whistle to blow, Jordan Brown stabbed home and the referee allowed the goal to stand. The match was turned on its head after 60 minutes though in controversial circumstances.
Cambridge then had a great chance to level after Sibbick was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area, but Mannion pulled off a brilliant save.
With 24 minutes to go, Toyosi Olusanya replaced the impressive Ano and shortly afterwards Reece Batchelor entered the fray for Bongo, who had played 90 minutes for the U-21s earlier in the week.
Switching to a 4-4-2 helped Wimbledon steady the ship and the Dons finished strongly. Emmanuel Mensah had an effective game for Wimbledon and he delivered some great crosses near the end that his team-mates failed to convert. However, two was just enough on the day.
Mark Robinson said: “After a 6.45 am meet-up, I was pleased with the lads. In the first half we had good possession and played decent football. We could have moved it quicker at times, but the surface was difficult. My only issue was that we created a few chances for them that could have cost us, but when you are playing possession football and teaching players to be comfortable on the ball, it’s always a risk. We just need to understand when and where to do it a bit better.
“After getting the second goal we looked so comfortable, but the goal for them turned the match on its head. That’s understandable after the way the goal came about, but it was a great learning tool for us of what happens when you play with emotion, rather than intelligence. To be fair, we got our heads together eventually and fully deserved the victory overall.”
The picture above was taken by Rob Cornell.