Young Don back after 15 months out in thrilling draw
It was a very encouraging start to 2015 for AFC Wimbledon Under-18s as they battled back with 10 men to earn a creditable draw at Milton Keynes.
Egli Kaja, Dan Agyei and Dom Bongo netted the goals in a 3-3 draw on Saturday against a side second in the Football League Youth Alliance table and the Dons did it with one player less for 54 minutes after Taylor Roles was sent off after receiving two yellow cards.
On a day of positives for the Under-18s, midfielder Seanan McKillop (pictured) returned as a late substitute after 15 months out with an anterior cruciate ligament injury and manager Mark Robinson was delighted to welcome him back.
Wimbledon had to recover from a 2-0 deficit early on with Luke Tingey opening the scoring for Milton Keynes and then Kabongo Tshimanga, who made his first-team debut recently, doubling the advantage. However, that produced a spirited response from Wimbledon and man of the match Egli Kaja led the fightback. Kaja was brought down on the edge of the box, but he bounced back to his feet and fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
goal of the season.thThe Dons had started to solve their defensive deficiencies and Kaja, Agyei, Tayshan Hayden-Smith and Billy Frost all came close to an equaliser at the other end. However, Wimbledon had to change their shape after Roles was red carded for a second bookable offence. Resolute defending defied the hosts and Wimbledon struck with a superb counter-attacking goal before the break. Kaja, Frost and Hayden-Smith combined to find Alfie Egan in space and he delivered a fine pass that Agyei finished clinically for his 26
Dons goalkeeper Billy Bishop pulled off two brilliant saves to keep his side level after the break, but Wimbledon had chances to take the lead despite their numerical disadvantage. Mark Robinson introduced 15-year-old Antonio Walker for the latter stages in place of the impressive Hayden-Smith. McKillop was also introduced to reward his determination to bounce back from serious injury with Jason Stripp departing after his best performance for the Under-18s.
With Wimbledon threatening another goal to seal victory, it appeared that Mark Robinson’s side had done enough to start 2015 in great style. However, Tshimanga struck from the penalty spot in the latter stages after the referee adjudged that he had been fouled by Bishop in the area. Wimbledon had taken the lead against all the odds by time McKillop entered the fray. Neset Bellikli put over a fine cross that was headed home emphatically by Bongo to earn an unlikely 3-2 lead for the Dons.
That failed to take the shine off a hugely positive start to the year for the Under-18s.
Mark Robinson said: “We tried something different today to try and have our own share of the ball against a side that keep possession very well. Early on it worked offensively but we were found wanting in wide areas, which led to their two early goals. I let the boys work it out for themselves though and when we got back to 2-2 we were definitely in the ascendancy until Taylor Roles got sent off. That changed the game and though we had Billy Bishop to thank for staying in the game, some of our counter-attacking play was excellent.“The boys will have learnt a lot from playing with 10 men for such a long period and I was very pleased with their concentration levels. It was great seeing Seanan back in a Wimbledon shirt today. It’s been a long road to recovery for Seanan, but all the staff and his team-mates are chuffed to have him back.”