Players from Mark Robinson's squad show quality
Under-18 players stepped up to provide the edge for AFC Wimbledon in last night’s London Senior Cup tie – and Alan Reeves is keen to reward their progress with more opportunities.
Sixteen-year-old Paul Kalambayi impressed at the back for Wimbledon in the 3-1 win at Thamesmead Town and substitutes Toyosi Olusanya and Alfie Egan both scored in the second-half.
All three showed their capabilities in the FA Youth Cup win against Woking last week and Neset Bellikli was also handed a starting role last night.
Speaking during a post-match interview for Dons Player, Alan Reeves said: “It is encouraging that there are young lads in behind what we have got with the Under-21s. I played Egli Kaja and David Fitzpatrick up front, but we had to put an out-and-out striker up there in the second-half. Toyosi is quick, he is a willing runner and a worker. He got his goal by running in behind.
“I had been searching for a right sided centre back since the start of this season and we had a few players in on trial. I have been working with the Under-18s centre backs to do some defending and heading on a Thursday afternoon. Both Paul and Toby Sibbick have looked decent. I spoke to Mark Robinson and said that we should get Paul up for a month, training with the first-team and the Under-21s. We wanted to see if he could handle it. He came in with us on Friday and Saturday and he did not look out of place. He played well this evening.”
Alan Reeves watched his side produce an encouraging second-half last night and he is demanding that on a more regular basis, starting with Leyton Orient at home next Monday.
“I told our players beforehand that they should not get sucked into playing their game, which was always going to be physical and about hustle and bustle,” added Alan. “For us, it was about getting the ball down, passing it, and finding space, but we did not do that in the first-half. In the second-half we relaxed a bit more and everyone wanted the ball. We were more incisive and we had runners in behind. It was a lot better.
“It was a step in the right direction in the second-half. It was a vast improvement on how we have been playing lately. Young professionals will have ups and downs, but unfortunately our dip in form has coincided with a few of our lads being out for form at the same time. Hopefully, this result and the second-half performance will get us out of that and more confident moving into the next game.”
The full video interview with Alan Reeves is on Dons Player.