Under-18s hit back late on at Stevenage
A late penalty from Jason Stripp earned AFC Wimbledon Under-18s a point in their final game before Friday’s FA Youth Cup tie against Watford.
Stripp (pictured) made no mistake from 12 yards to salvage a 2-2 draw at Stevenage, a pleasing result in the circumstances, according to assistant manager James Oliver-Pearce.
Due to recent injuries and tonight’s Under-21 fixture against Bournemouth, only five players were including in the starting 11 from those that started in the FA Youth Cup win against Ebbsfleet United.
Wimbledon started brightly with Dan Ano at the heart of his side’s best attacking moves and it was 1-0 to the Dons midway through the first-half. It was Ano who opened the scoring in style when he latched onto a brilliant ball from the impressive Emmanuel Mensah and with Nathan Wood’s intelligent run opening up space, he drove on and finished clinically.
The hosts responded well and it was 1-1 eight minutes before half-time. A goalmouth scramble eventually resulted in a Stevenage equaliser from Joe Hankins at the fourth attempt after goalkeeper Will Mannion had made three superb saves.
There was a half-time change for Wimbledon with Ano, who is due to feature for the Under-21s tonight, withdrawn and replaced by Under-16 player Tino Carpene. Just two minutes into the second-half and Wimbledon fell behind for the first time when Paul Kalambayi was penalised for a foul in the box and Robbie Sweeney converted.
The Dons showed plenty of spirit in the latter stages and they were rewarded with two minutes of normal time left. Kalambayi, who had been pushed up front with 10 minutes to play, won a penalty and Stripp scored from the spot. Wimbledon could even have won it late on, but they had to settle for a hard-earned draw in the end.
James Oliver-Pearce said: “The players showed plenty of character and grit to ensure they didn’t lose a game that they certainly created enough chances to win. This had not been the case in previous weeks when we had reshuffled the squad. Despite these positives, we know that we need to do more in terms of keeping the ball and playing a more progressing style of football. I’m sure that in the coming weeks we will be able to display these qualities.
“With our FA Youth Cup tie against Watford coming up on Friday, it was pleasing that the players stayed focused and those who hadn’t been involved as frequently in recent weeks also staked a claim for future involvement.”
Wimbledon’s man of the match was Emmanuel Mensah.