Young Dons start with victory at home
A double from in-form forward Dan Ano inspired a dramatic turnaround for AFC Wimbledon Under-18s against Stevenage on Saturday.
The young Dons came from 2-0 down at half-time to triumph 3-2 in their first home fixture of 2015/16.
With Wimbledon struggling to hold onto possession, Stevenage capitalised to establish momentum in attack and they were rewarded in the seventh minute, albeit with a huge slice of fortune. Wimbledon goalkeeper Will Mannion produced a decent save, but the ball was diverted into the net by Reece Batchelor.
There was a good chance for Wimbledon to conjure up an almost instant response after great play down the left from Nathan Woods set-up Ano, but he missed the target from five yards. Another chance followed for Ano after excellent approach play by man of the match Alfie Egan, but he shot agonisingly wide from 18 yards.
minute, but the reprieve was only temporary as Stevenage marched into a 2-0 lead through an excellent volley from Jack Storer. Wimbledon made a change shortly afterwards with the injured George Marchant replaced by David Omperon.thDespite decent chances for the Dons, Stevenage doubled their advantage before the half hour mark. Mannion pulled off a brilliant save in the 25
Following half-time tactical adjustments, Wimbledon started the second half strongly with Egan, Seanan McKillop and Reece Williams-Bowers taking control in midfield. That resulted in one back for the Dons and it was achieved in great style too as Egan found Ano, who drove forward and scored with a powerful 20-yard drive. It was so nearly 2-2 when Mckillop and Williams-Bowers combined to put Egan through, but his clip over the goalkeeper was cleared off the line.
With Batchelor and Omperon effecting matters from the full-back positions and Toby Sibbick and Dom Bongo offering solid resistance at the heart of defence, Wimbledon kept things much tighter at the back. However, the Dons needed Mannion to pull off a superb save 22 minutes from time.
Manager Mark Robinson made a double change with 20 minutes left as Toyosi Olusanya and Antonio Walker were introduced for Woods and McKillop. Woods had produced some impressive moments in attack and McKillop had enjoyed a good performance in midfield after returning from injury.
The Dons drew level 18 minutes from time when a huge kick by Mannion was flicked on by Jayden Antwi and Ano out-muscled his marker, before finishing clinically from 12 yards. There was no let-up from Wimbledon after drawing level and the winner subsequently followed. Antwi held the ball up expertly for substitute Olusanya and he struck a brilliant shot from just outside the area that flew in via the underside of the crossbar.
Despite finishing the game with 10 men as Toby Sibbick went off injured, Wimbledon held on for victory.
Mark Robinson said: “In an interview I gave on Friday I talked about the boys lacking the mental attributes required and we saw that again in the first half. Though we created a lot of good chances, you cannot have just one or two leaders on the pitch, otherwise your foundations are weak and you will concede goals.
“I am not saying that everyone has to shout, but those players who are not the noisiest on the pitch need to lead by the quality and intensity of their performances. The first 25 minutes of the second half was a lot better and we caused them more problems, but our technical detail still fell short of what I know the players are capable of producing. We did show a real desire to win though, which saw us through fairly comfortably in the end.
“Though we are capable of a lot better, there were a lot of positives. Their side contained three Ireland youth internationals and five boys already on professional contracts so it was a good win, particularly for our first year Under-18s involved.”
Man of the match for Wimbledon was Alfie Egan.