Manager pleased with resilience of young Dons
Mark Robinson praised an impressive defensive performance after a hard-fought draw for AFC Wimbledon Under-18s at Leyton Orient on Saturday.
A 0-0 draw was in stark contrast to recent games as the young Dons came into this match on the back of two 3-2 victories, but it was a big test for Wimbledon after losing captain Dom Bongo to injury during the warm-up.
Full-back Reece Batchelor (pictured), who has been involved for the Under-21s recently, was handed the captain’s armband and he thrived on the responsibility with an “excellent” performance, according to Mark Robinson.
“It was a very competitive game of football and a draw was probably about right,” said Mark. “Although Orient finished stronger, I thought we edged it in terms of looking more threatening for the majority of the game. There were very few chances for either side as both defences held firm. That was very pleasing from our perspective.
“We lost Dom in the warm-up so it was the first time in four games that our two young centre-backs Toby Sibbick and Paul Kalambayi had been paired together. They both did very well and our back four were very good throughout. Reece Batchelor was excellent as captain and David Omperon put in his best performance for us.
“We looked a much more professional side defensively. That needs to remain a constant so that we can continue to improve what we do when we are on the ball. There were constant key moments today when we were on the ball and we could have been better. It meant we could not build-up the momentum we needed to really turn the screw.”
Alfie Egan, who headed home the winner at Barnet last week, came close early on with another header after a great cross from Toyosi Olusanya. In the first-half, Wimbledon had the better of it, but the visitors had to be alert to contain a sharp Orient attack on the break.
The first-half ended with Wimbledon continuing to enjoy better possession, but without creating the chances to match. In the second-half, Orient started on the front foot and Wimbledon had to remain resolute at the back to keep them at bay.
It was different after the hour mark as the impressive Seanan McKillop and Egan regained control of midfield. Although Dan Ano and Jayden Antwi always looked a threat, the Dons struggled to fashion clear-cut chances. With 20 minutes to go, Mark Robinson was forced into a change as Batchelor had to go off injured and midfielder Jason Stripp showed his versatility by filling in at right-back. The exciting Olusanya was also replaced by Reece Williams-Bowers.
With 15 minutes to go, Louie Cockle entered the fray for Nathan Woods, who had worked tirelessly for the Dons, but his skill on the ball had not been utilised enough. The hosts finished stronger of the two sides, but a good sign of Wimbledon’s improved defensive performance was that Orient were restricted to speculative efforts from outside the area.
Man of the Match for Wimbledon was Seanan McKillop.