Coach praises young squad after defeat
Coach Alan Reeves was delighted with his young squad’s hard work and application after a narrow defeat at the hands of a more experienced Gillingham side today.
The 1-0 defeat at Gills in the Final Third Development League Cup left Wimbledon’s hopes of progressing into the semi-final of the national competition in the balance. However, with six Under-18s, two Under-17s and Under-16 Jayden Antwi coming on as a substitute, the match offered great experience for the squad.
Centre-back Mark Phillips was the only Wimbledon player on the day with first-team experience.
The young Dons were eventually beaten by a goal from former Wimbledon loanee Brennan Dickenson, but Egli Kaja (pictured) twice came close to netting for the visitors.
Alan Reeves said: “We did not get what we deserved. Will Mannion only had one meaningful save to make. We came in at 0-0 and we were much the better side in the second-half. We had shots blocked and efforts just wide. Egli Kaja did well and so too did Neset Bellikli on the left, but everyone was good. The back four defended really well, apart from when they switched off for their goal from a free-kick.
“Our players equipped themselves really well. It was very positive. You never want to lose football matches, but I told the boys that they had a right good go at it. With our best Under-21s we are a match for anyone at this level, but they are now in the first-team squad. That is why we are not as strong as we could be.
“It offers a chance for the younger lads. Jayden Antwi came on and got clattered by one of their centre-backs who had played loads of games for the first-team. In a way it was a case of ‘welcome to Under-21s football’, but he got on with it and did not back down.”
The Dons will still go through to the last-four of the competition if Cambridge United fail to beat Gillingham in their final group match.
AFC Wimbledon: Will Mannion, Callum Wilson, Mark Phillips, Taylor Roles, Ryan Sweeney, David Fitzpatrick, Billy Frost, Christian Toonga, Neset Bellikli, Chace Jacquart (Jayden Antwi), Egli Kaja.