Under-18s hit by late Luton rally
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s eventually found league leaders Luton Town too strong after matching the visitors for 78 minutes on Saturday.
With manager Mark Robinson only able to select five players from the side that won in the FA Youth Cup, it was an inexperienced Dons line-up at Football League Youth Alliance level and ruthless finishing near the end secured a 4-1 win for Luton.
Fifteen-year-olds Tino Carperne and Anthony Hartigan were among those included on Saturday and a young Dons side did well to hold their own against a team that have scored almost 50 goals already this season.
George Murray finished clinically to put Luton 1-0 up, but Mark Robinson was pleased with the response that his side showed. Nathan Wood was instrumental in the fightback and he showed great skill to create an opening for himself, but he was unable to produce a finish to match. The Dons came even closer when a fine ball from Hartigan set-up Carperne and he produced a superb solo run, before rattling the crossbar from 18 yards.
Though Wimbledon had to stay alert at the back with Paul Kalambayi and George Marchant offering stern resistance, the hosts were perhaps unfortunate to go in 1-0 down at half-time.
minute. Toyosi Olusanya, who scored in the London Senior Cup last week, once again showed his pace to chase a long ball and when he was sent sprawling in the box the only outcome was a penalty. Jason Stripp (pictured) stepped up and converted with great confidence.thA good start to the second-half from Wimbledon earned the reward of an equaliser in the 54
Wimbledon continued to be the better side, but they paid the price for over indulgence as Luton came back into it. A free-kick led to Luton’s second after Wimbledon set-up poorly to defend it and Kavan Cotter finished well at the far post.
Late goals from Frankie Musonda and James Verney made the final score harsh on Wimbledon.
“I find it very difficult to talk positively about a Wimbledon side losing 4-1 to anyone, but my job is about development,” said Mark Robinson. “When we win I am the first person to talk about what we could have done better so I have to recognise our performance in the first 70 minutes. We will look at the positives, but also the reasons why we did not maintain those standards in the last 20 minutes.
“Luton have always had a productive academy and by their own admission this is the strongest youth team they have ever had. I honestly believe they would give any youth team in the country a competitive game. However, for 70 minutes with a very young side we matched them all over the pitch and had the clearer cut chances.
“When we equalised I believe anyone watching would have said we were the more likely to go on and win it. Unfortunately, we stopped doing the things that had put us in such a good position to win the game and we lost our momentum. Luton then showed their professionalism and ruthless edge, which has given them such an outstanding record to date.
“We had a good bunch of lads out there, but they need to take more pride in their learning and not be so up and down in their focus. It was little key moments that cost us, but they are all things we work on and talk about. However, if you do not absorb the information you will not consistently put it into practice in the pressured environment of a competitive game. They did not buckle when we had them under good pressure and that was the difference between the two teams.”
Paul Driver, youth team manager at Luton, said: “Despite the result, it wasn’t the best we’ve played this season – probably the poorest all season. It’s a performance that has given us something to think about going forward. The only added bonus was that Southend lost and we’ve gone four points clear with a game in hand. Credit to Wimbledon, however, they made it really difficult for us.”
Man of the match for Wimbledon was Anthony Hartigan.