Young Wimbledon side beaten by Middlesbrough
AFC Wimbledon suffered a first defeat in the Premier League Cup this afternoon with a goal after just 19 seconds earning victory for Middlesbrough.
A superb strike from Junior Mondal was enough to secure victory for Middlesbrough Under-23s, who played for an hour with 10 men after Matthew Elsdon was sent off.
Following a 3-3 draw against Charlton in Wimbledon’s first group match in the competition, the young Dons just came up short against a Premier League club’s youngsters.
Wimbledon fielded a particularly young starting 11 for this game with eight players still eligible for the Under-18s. On this occasion, it was the trio of Dan Gallagher, Neset Bellikli and Egli Kaja (pictured) who offered relative experience in the game at Merstham FC. In similar fashion to the senior side at Curzon Ashton, Wimbledon fell behind to a goal inside the first minute. It was even quicker on this occasion as Junior Mondal struck with a superb angled drive into the top corner, leaving Joe Bursik with no chance.
Following a difficult start, Wimbledon had a decent opportunity to equalise when Paul Kalambayi headed on a corner from Neset Bellikli and Toby Sibbick nodded the ball just over. However, the Dons needed goalkeeper Joe Bursik to pull off a great save with his feet as he reacted well to deny Joao Morelli. As the first-half progressed, Wimbledon came more into it. Bellikli struck a free-kick that was just deflected wide and then Kaja was denied by Middlesbrough goalkeeper Joe Fryer. The forward momentum continued for Wimbledon and good work by Judah Chapman created a shooting chance for Jayden Antwi, but his shot flashed just wide.
There was a major incident in the game just before the half hour mark when Middlesbrough centre-back Matthew Elsdon was sent off for two bookings. His second yellow card was received after a late challenge on Reece Williams-Bowers, who had producing a lively first-half performance. With a one-man advantage, Wimbledon so nearly took advantage when Antwi cut inside smartly and unleashed a powerful drive that Fryer did really well to tip wide. Bellikli then threatened to provide a cutting edge when he created space with a lovely nutmeg before trying his luck with a shot that was just too high.
Despite showing moments of first-half promise, the Dons had been unable to make their one-man advantage count. That continued in the second-half as Wimbledon came up against a Middlesbrough defence that was still well drilled, despite the dismissal of Elsdon. A chance did arrive when Egli Kaja swung in a dangerous cross from a corner, but Paul Kalamabayi headed it just over the crossbar. Middlesbrough retained a threat on the break and it needed a fine block from Osaze Urhoghide to stop a goal-bound effort from Ben Liddle. Midway through the second-half, Alan Reeves made his first change with Anthony Hartigan replacing Chapman.
With 12 minutes to play, the Dons made another change with Tino Carpene entering the fray for Reece Williams-Bowers. Bellikli’s delivery from crosses and set-pieces had proved to be a useful weapon all afternoon and one of his dangerous balls in just missed the far post. A flowing Dons move fashioned a shooting chance for Hartigan, but his shot was too close to Fryer. Kaja also tried his luck with a shot that was deflected just wide. However, clear-cut chances were few and far between for Wimbledon against a resolute Middlesbrough defence. Despite late pressure, the visitors held firm to deny Wimbledon a share of the spoils.
AFC Wimbledon: Josef Bursik, Osaze Urhoghide, Tom Scott, Dan Gallagher, Paul Kalambayi, Toby Sibbick, Egli Kaja, Judah Chapman (Anthony Hartigan), Jayden Antwi, Reece Williams-Bowers (Tino Carpene), Neset Bellikli.