Dons hit the heights before big cup tie
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s head into Thursday night’s FA Youth Cup tie on the back of an impressive victory after a superb volley from man of the match Alfie Egan edged out Southend United.
Mark Robinson’s side host Ebbsfleet United later this week and they can now go into it with renewed belief after a 1-0 win against a side challenging near the top of the Football League Youth Alliance table.
What turned out to be the winner came early on in great style. Reece Williams-Bowers and 15 year-old Tino Carperne combined well to set-up Egan (pictured left above), who volleyed home brilliantly from 20 yards. Manager Mark Robinson described the next 30 minutes as an “excellent display of attacking football” with Seanan McKillop, Jason Stripp and Egan as the creative forces in midfield and Dan Ano, Carperne and Toyosi Olusanya offering plenty of threat up front.
All three Wimbledon attackers came close to doubling the advantage before half-time, but the back three of Paul Kalambayi, Toby Sibbick and David Omperon had to be solid to deny breaks from Southend, Will Mannion in goal staying alert throughout. Mannion had to be at his best shortly into the second-half to stop Southend equalising, but at the other end Stripp had an effort cleared off the line and Olusanya came close.
Midway through the second-half, Jayden Antwi made his return up front as he replaced the talented Carperne and Nathan Woods also entered the fray for Ano, who had been a constant threat. The skilful Woods made an instant impact and he was just denied by the Southend goalkeeper. The young Dons were forced to defend in the latter stages, but they stayed resolute to earn a victory that will boost confidence after a difficult recent run.
Mark Robinson said: “I cannot help but have mixed feelings. We were very good today for almost 90 minutes and in the first half I thought we were class in everything we did against a very good side that had been scoring goals for fun. However, to reach this level again it has taken some poor results and for us to revisit off-the-ball sessions that were nailed down in pre-season.
“If I trained in another profession, for example bricklaying, and helped build beautiful houses, but couldn’t be bothered to maintain my standards and a couple of walls fell down, then my career at that company would probably be over. As I’ve worked out of football, I see it no differently now that I’m working in it. This slovenly attitude to learning and holding information seems to be unique to young footballers.
“How far their careers progress hinge on a few things. If they have talent, the level they play at will be dictated by their mental strength and ability to retain information. At the moment, I don’t know whether some of the players just cannot retain information or if it’s because the information I am talking about relates to what you do off the ball.
“We won against a very good side because we got our jobs off the ball spot-on and that gave us the framework to be good with the ball. The players had plenty of opportunities to express themselves. Until they learn to love the other side of the game like they did today, they will remain inconsistent individually and collectively. It’s ridiculous we are mid-table and not battling it out with Luton and Southend at the top, but there are reasons why. I hope after Saturday, the lads finally realise what is required and they can start to give themselves the best opportunity to develop.”
AFC Wimbledon host Ebbsfleet United in a second round tie on Thursday evening (7.00 kick-off) at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. Entry prices are £5 for adults and £2 for children.