Teenage substitutes make big impact
AFC Wimbledon’s youngsters had to be patient to earn a place in the next round of the London Senior Cup with late goals finally seeing off Thamesmead Town.
Substitutes Toyosi Olusanya (pictured) and Alfie Egan chipped in with a goal each after their impressive displays for the Under-18s in the FA Youth Cup and Dan Gallagher scored the goal of the night as Wimbledon came from behind to earn a 3-1 victory.
Following a difficult first half, coach Alan Reeves could take plenty of positives with 16-year-old Paul Kalamabyi showing his potential at the heart of defence alongside Ryan Sweeney and fellow Under-18s making big impressions in the second-half.
The Dons selected a young starting 11 for this cup tie with goalkeeper Joe McDonnell as their oldest player at the age of 21. Eight of Alan Reeves’ development side had actually featured in League 2 matches, albeit with only limited experience of senior football between them. Christian Toonga was the latest of that crop to step-up with two recent substitute appearances.
Despite Wimbledon dominating early possession, it was Ryman North side Thamesmead with the first chance when Jose Figura got behind a static Dons back line, but his shot was too high. With George Oakley having gone on loan to Kingstonian, it meant Wimbledon had no out-and-out striker and Egli Kaja and David Fitzpatrick started up front.
minute. Thamesmead captain Derek Duncan, who spent a season with AFC Wimbledon in 2009/10, pounced on a half clearance and struck a fierce drive from 25 yards that arrowed into the top corner.stHaving watched his side make little impression as an attacking force in the first 20 minutes, Alan Reeves called for more urgency from Toonga and Gallagher in the centre of the park. However, the Dons were left stunned by a cracker of a goal in the 21
minute. Egli Kaja pounced on a poor back pass and powered through the middle, but Omand got down well to save his low shot and Dan Gallagher struck the rebound over. The Dons started to really come into it before half-time with Gallagher getting on the ball in the centre of the park. Kaja looked the most likely to draw his side level and he produced a smart turn and run, before being foiled once again by Omand.ndWimbledon finally tested Thamesmead Town goalkeeper Aaron Omand in the 32
In a first-half when Wimbledon struggled to create chances, the best moment came when Neset Bellikli picked out Tom Beere, who struck a fierce shot that Omand did well to get a hand to. However, the Dons needed Paul Kalambayi to make a fine last-ditch clearance to stop Duncan’s cross from finding a Thamesmead target in the box.
Despite dominating second half possession, Wimbledon struggled to create anything of note and Alan Reeves made a change just before the hour. Toyosi Olusanya, who made such a big impression in the FA Youth Cup tie win against Woking last season, entered the fray for Bellikli. Too many times Wimbledon had created promising situations through midfield play from Gallagher and Toonga, but failed to create anything.
minute when Fitzpatrick tried his luck with a shot from outside the area that Omand could only parry and Olusanya slotted a cool finish over the Thamesmead goalkeeper. All of a sudden, it was a different game now as Wimbledon poured forward. A pass from Tom Beere created havoc in the area, but Thamesmead just managed to scramble the ball away.thThat all changed in the 64
The Dons made another change with 20 minutes left as Alfie Egan replaced Tom Beere on the right of midfield. Egan was straight into the thick of it and put through a lovely pass for Kaja, but he was unable to make the most of it. However, with Wimbledon piling so many players forward, they were caught out on the break and Thamesmead should have snatched the lead. Substitute Tyrus Gordon Young pounced on a defensive lapse to go clean through on goal, but he struck a post from close range.
Wimbledon marched into the lead 11 minutes from time with a goal of real quality. Kaja showed lovely skill on the left to nutmeg his marker, before sending over a cross that eventually found Gallagher. There appeared little danger when Gallagher burst down the right flank and a cross seemed the only option, but the midfielder looked up and struck a lovely curler that found the top corner.
Seeing out victory was from easy for the Dons though as Derek Duncan struck another fine free-kick that hit a post and the rebound also hit the upright. However, the Dons finished strongly and sealed victory a few minutes from time when Egan beat his man with lovely skill and struck a low finish that deceived Omand.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Callum Wilson, Ben Harrison, Dan Gallagher, Ryan Sweeney, Paul Kalambayi, Tom Beere (Alfie Egan), Christian Toonga, Egli Kaja (Jason Stripp), David Fitzpatrick, Neset Bellikli (Toyosi Olusanya).
Picture credit: Micah Crook.