Oakley impresses for Under-21s
AFC Wimbledon Under-21s showed fighting spirit in abundance tonight as they came from behind twice to earn a share of the spoils at Metropolitan Police.
At the scene of London Senior Cup glory last year, Wimbledon's young crop again showed promise for the future in a 2-2 draw against a side that came fifth in the Ryman Premier League last season.
Trialists Dan Webster and Charles Weston-Hayles got the goals for Wimbledon, but plenty of young Dons did their chances of first-team appearances in the future no harm at all. George Oakley (pictured) produced a dominant forward display, including an assist for the second goal, and Ben Harrison led by example at the back.
Oakley came so close to putting the Dons 1-0 up inside two minutes when he got behind the Met Police defence and struck a fierce effort from an acute angle that just missed the far post. However, the hosts seized the initiative with a well worked goal in the seventh minute. Nikki Ahmed picked the ball up in midfield and put through a defence-splitting pass right through the middle and Joe Turner gave it the finish it deserved with a brilliant strike that went in via the crossbar.
The response was good from Wimbledon and trialist Charles Weston-Hayles turned smartly in the box to create a shooting chance for himself, but his shot was well saved by Met Police goalkeeper Craig King. The Dons were fortunate to survive shortly afterwards though when Johnnie Dyer shot over the crossbar from close range.
With half an hour gone, Wimbledon started to dominate and Harrison proved instrumental in the turnaround. The left-back drove forward with a powerful run, before sending through a defence-splitting pass that found Weston-Hayles, but his shot was well saved again by King. The on-loan Fulham goalkeeper was proving to be a tough nut to crack as the Dons could easily have been at least level, but for his presence in the Met Police goal.
The Dons restored parity on the stroke of half-time with an equaliser that was perhaps deserved on the balance of play. Neset Bellikli sent over a teasing free-kick from the right and trialist Dan Webster rose highest in the box to head home superbly.
Metropolitan Police manager Jim Cooper made a raft of half-time changes, but Wimbledon coach Alan Reeves decided to keep it the same after a decent end to the first half. However, the Dons fell behind five minutes after the break when Met Police substitute Dee Okojie sprung the offside trap and finished superbly. It could have been worse minutes later when Ryan James was left unmarked in the box from a cross, but he headed over the crossbar.
Wimbledon made a change on the hour with George Marchant replacing Webster at the back. At this stage, the Dons were starting to turn the screw as they enjoyed plenty of possession with Dan Gallagher pulling the strings in midfield. But it was the direct approach that paid off for Wimbledon just a minute later when Oakley did well to head on a long ball and trialist Weston-Hayles produced a clinical low finish that left King with no chance.
With the Dons well on top after their equaliser, Alan Reeves attempted to press home the advantage with a treble substitution. Jason Stripp, Jayden Antwi and Dan Ano all came on with Gallagher, Charles-Webster and Bellikli making way. With both sides really going for it as we entered the final 15 minutes, the Dons needed Pilbeam to make an excellent clearance off the line to stop former Kingstonian winger Okojie netting his second.
Substitute Ano was very lively after he entered the fray, his runs down the wing really catching the eye. One of his pacy runs down the left ended with a pass that opened up a shooting chance for Harrison and his powerful drive flashed just wide. The Dons were certainly not settling for a draw and they came so close to snatching a late winner when Stripp, who impressed as a late substitute, sent over a fine cross that Oakley got to first, but his header was just over the crossbar. Though a late winner eluded Wimbledon, it was a performance of promise with the more senior players impressing and several under-18s gaining experience at this level.
AFC Wimbledon: Will Mannion, Callum Wilson, Ben Harrison, Dan Gallagher (Jason Stripp), Dan Webster (George Marchant), George Pilbeam, Egli Kaja, Alfie Egan, George Oakley, Charles Weston-Hayles (Jayden Antwi), Neset Bellikli (Dan Ano).