Epic tie at Vicarage Road ends in shoot-out victory
A dramatic penalty shoot-out victory for the Under-18s in the FA Youth Cup at Watford FC continued the feel-good factor for AFC Wimbledon after last night’s green light for the new stadium.
Reece Williams-Bowers struck the decisive spot-kick to earn a fourth round tie against either Ilkeston or Newcastle United. Alfie Egan had earlier struck an all-important equaliser in the dying seconds of injury-time to earn a 2-2 draw, before extra-time and penalties.
goal of the season from 10 yards out.thMark Robinson said in the build-up to this game that he did not think there would be much of a gap between these two sides and he was certainly proved to be correct in the first-half. The Dons dominated possession and it was harsh on the visitors that they fell 1-0 down. The opening goal came from Michael Folivi in the ninth minute, the Watford striker getting in behind Wimbledon’s defence and firing home his 13
Wimbledon already had the ball in the back of the net before Watford’s opener when Neset Bellikli lobbed Watford goalkeeper Andrew Thomas, but it was ruled out for offside. Despite playing lovely football for the rest of the first half, Wimbledon were unable to test Thomas. Alfie Egan came so close to doing that when he burst onto Dan Ano’s flick, but he was just stopped by a last-ditch tackle.
Winger Toyosi Olusanya was causing plenty of problems down the left flank and a good chance followed when Bellikli got involved down the left. He put over a lovely cross that picked out Emmanuel Mensah on the far post, but he was unable to get enough on his shot and Thomas gathered. With Jason Stripp and Seanan McKillop getting on the ball in midfield and Egan supporting the attack, Wimbledon continued to have the better of it.
The Dons were rewarded in first-half injury-time with the equaliser, Egan’s ability to join in the attack again paying off. Latching onto a flick from Dan Ano, Egan was brought down in the box by Andrew Eleftheriou, who was booked for his challenge. Ano stepped up and calmly sent Thomas the wrong way from 12 yards to make it 1-1.
Wimbledon continued to really go for it at the start of the second-half and a lovely team move ended with a half chance for Ano, but his shot trickled into the grateful arms of Thomas. All that was missing from Wimbledon’s game was the finishing touch as Mark Robinson’s side continued to dominate. Olusanya put over a brilliant cross from the left that was begging to be finished off, but no one was able to get on the end of it.
A sign of Wimbledon’s dominance in the second-half was that Watford were forced to defend on the edge of their own box for long spells. The only criticism was that the Dons failed to really test Thomas in the Watford goal. One lovely team move involving Egan and Stripp ended with an opening for Mensah, but he sliced his shot wide. However, Mensah was having a very good game down the right flank as he defended stoutly and used his blinding pace to join in the attack at every opportunity.
Watford gradually started to exert some pressure with 15 minutes left and it needed Toby Sibbick to make a brilliant clearance off the line after a superb run and shot from left-back Brandon Mason. The Dons paid the ultimate price for failing to deal with a cross when Watford substitute Max Makaka latched onto the loose ball first and steered the ball home. An instant response followed from Wimbledon and it was so close to being 2-2 when Egan’s shot was deflected by George Marchant, but it was saved by Thomas.
With time running out, Wimbledon nearly equalised again when Egan put over a superb cross that Ano met with a fine looping header, but Thomas saved well. Despite a frantic finale with Wimbledon peppering the Watford, the equaliser never looked like coming. However, there was a twist in the tale in the third minute of injury-time when a deep corner was flicked back at the back post by Marchant and Egan rose superbly to head home emphatically. That signalled ecstatic scenes as Wimbledon celebrated an equaliser that kept them in the competition with 30 minutes of extra-time now required.
Both sides struggled to fashion opportunities in extra-time as tiredness started to take effect. The closest Wimbledon came in the first period of extra-time was when Marchant headed just wide from a free-kick. The Dons made their third change with Judah Chapman introduced for Olusanya, who had produced another all-action display. Reece Williams-Bowers, who entered the fray as a substitute near the end of normal time, made a good contribution with his passing skills and vision in midfield.
It was proving tough to separate these two sides, neither team able to fashion clear-cut chances. However, Wimbledon looked the likelier to win it and Marchant struck a fine curler from outside the box that Thomas did well to hold.
With no more goals in extra-time, it was onto penalties and Wimbledon held their nerve superbly during the shoot-out. Seanan McKillop, Dan Ano, Nathan Wood all made no mistake from 12 yards, but when Judah Chapman’s effort was saved by Thomas, it meant Watford still had a chance heading into the final spot-kick from Williams-Bowers. However, he made no mistake to earn a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win for the Dons. Wimbledon goalkeeper Will Mannion had also made a telling contribution by saving a spot-kick from Watford’s Charlie Rowan.
It was certainly a deserved victory on the night for Wimbledon and Mark Robinson’s side march on in the FA Youth Cup.
AFC Wimbledon: Will Mannion, Emmanuel Mensah, George Marchant, Toby Sibbick, Paul Kalambayi, Jason Stripp (Reece Williams-Bowers), Neset Bellikli (Nathan Wood), Seanan McKillop, Daniel Ano, Alfie Egan, Toyosi Olusanya (Judah Chapman).