Mixed emotions after a draw at Cheltenham
AFC Wimbledon U-18s manager Mark Robinson said his players can learn plenty from yesterday’s match at Cheltenham after they failed to finish off the hosts.
The young Dons had the better chances, but they had to settle for a 0-0 draw that at least extended their unbeaten run to six matches.
Chances were minimal in the first 20 minutes, but Dons goalkeeper Will Mannion had to deal with several crosses as Cheltenham started on the front foot. Man of the Match Egli Kaja (pictured) sparked the young Dons into life and he so nearly opened the scoring after a brilliant solo run that ended with his well struck shot saved by Cheltenham goalkeeper Harry Reynolds.
Kaja’s intervention was the cue for Wimbledon to up the tempo and Tayshan Hayden-Smith, Dan Agyei and Alfie Egan all came close to breaking the deadlock. At the other end, Mannion watched two efforts from Cheltenham sail over the crossbar.
Agyei and Kaja both almost opened the scoring as Wimbledon took control after the break, before the former was replaced by Dan Ano.
Neset Bellikli, who was impressive throughout, produced an excellent piece of skill when he beat two men down the left and delivered a dangerous cross that just eluded Billy Frost at the far post. It only seemed a matter of time before the Dons scored with Jason Stripp, Ano and Kaja all coming close.
However, the Dons almost paid the price for overplaying when Mannion’s hurried kick provided Cheltenham with a golden chance that they spurned. Mannion then had to make two fine saves as Cheltenham threatened to win it.
With 15 minutes to go, Seanan McKillop continued his comeback from injury by entering the fray for Hayden-Smith, but both sides had to settle for a point in this Merit League match.
Mark Robinson said: “The game was played in difficult conditions and in the first half we did not adapt well. Apart from a spell in the second half, our football was pretty ineffective and we did not ask enough questions of the Cheltenham defence. The second half we started much better and it looked to be only a matter of time before we scored.
“We then started to cause ourselves problems by overplaying in the wrong areas on a difficult surface and that allowed Cheltenham to take the initiative. It was a game that we can learn a lot from in terms of our decision-making and game intelligence.
“A real positive was Neset Bellikli, who is currently playing left-back to aid his development, and he did very well for long spells against a Cheltenham winger who recently signed a professional contract. It was great to see Russell Milton again and I wish him the best of luck in his new role as first-team manager.”