Hatters finally defeat Wimbledon this season
Clinical finishing proved to be the difference tonight as AFC Wimbledon slipped to defeat against leaders Luton Town in the Final Third Development League.
The 3-0 defeat was harsh on Wimbledon, but a fine demonstration of finishing from Ricky Miller ruthlessly exposed the Dons as he scored one in each half and Leeroy Maguraushe completed the scoring.
Though Luton held the upper hand in the first half, Wimbledon created plenty of chances in the second half and Egli Kaja (pictured above) was one of several Dons players to threaten a goal.
It promised to be a tough test against a Luton side currently top of the Final Third Development League South Division, but the Hatters had failed to win in two previous matches against the Dons this season at development level. With first-teamer Luke Rooney as captain and 31-year-old Paul Connolly at full-back, Luton were not lacking in experience. The importance of these matches for blooding rising youngsters and fringe players was summed up by the fact that respective first-team managers Neal Ardley and John Still were both in attendance.
The Hatters were forced into an early change when centre-back Andy Parry had to go off injured and he was replaced by Kyran McGhan-George. With Luton making a bright start, Mark Phillips had to be alert to stop Luton danger-man Ricky Miller breaking through. Miller was a real livewire early on and he put over a lovely cross that Alex Wall should have converted, but he was unable to get enough of a connection to score.
Wimbledon had to defend resolutely in the first half an hour with teenage pair Ryan Sweeney and Callum Wilson catching the eye at the back. However, the hosts needed Joe McDonnell to make a brilliant save to stop Daryl Ngwala making it 1-0, the Dons goalkeeper winning a one-on-one duel. At the other end, Dan Agyei shot across the face of goal and Luton goalkeeper Liam Gooch was fortunate that his parry bounced to safety.
McDonnell was again required to keep the score level shortly afterwards, this time when he denied Miller with another fine save. Luton’s pressure finally told just before half-time when Luke Trotman’s through ball caught out Wimbledon and Miller held off a challenge from Phillips before finishing emphatically.
The Dons improved considerably after half-time and had chances to get back into it. A superb run down the right from Dan Gallagher ended with a cross that set-up a half chance for Kaja, but he headed just over the crossbar. David Fitzpatrick, who struck a superb hat-trick recently against Portsmouth, had a chance to add another goal when he latched onto a long ball from Ben Harrison, but this time he shot over the crossbar. Wimbledon’s best spell continued as they dominated around the hour mark, but they just couldn’t find the goal to match their approach play. Kaja produced a lovely turn inside and his fierce shot from outside the area flashed just wide.
At this stage, it appeared likely that Wimbledon would force their way back into it, especially with Fitzpatrick and Chace Jacquart looking dangerous in attack. However, Luton struck in ruthless fashion 20 minutes from time to earn the cushion of a second goal. Miller got in behind Wimbledon’s defence to latch onto a long ball and he finished clinically once again.
Luton sealed victory when a 30-yard strike from substitute Maguraushe beat McDonnell. Despite being 3-0 down, it was encouraging that Wimbledon kept on battling to reduce the deficit. Ryan Sweeney rose highest in the box to send a powerful header towards goal, but it was cleared off the line and then Ben Harrison was denied by the goalkeeper. It was clearly not going to be Wimbledon’s night when Fitzpatrick’s fine effort from 25 yards proved too hot to handle for Luton goalkeeper Gooch, but it bounced away to safety.
Having beaten Luton in the Final Third Development Cup this season and drawn with the Hatters in the reverse fixture at Kenilworth Road, this proved to be a bridge too far for a young squad who have shown plenty of promise this season.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Callum Wilson, Ben Harrison, Dan Gallagher (Billy Frost), Ryan Sweeney, Mark Phillips, David Fitzpatrick, Christian Toonga, Dan Agyei, Chace Jacquart, Egli Kaja.