Match report: Under-18s rally to march into fourth round
AFC Wimbledon’s young talents are at it again as the class of 2016/17 yesterday moved a step closer to emulating last season’s FA Youth Cup achievement.
A dramatic late rally earned a 2-1 win at Huddersfield yesterday with substitute Nick Akoto and Anthony Hartigan netting the goals to set-up a fourth round tie at home to Hull City.
Though manager Mark Robinson rightly prefers to look to the future rather than dwell on last season’s memorable run, the Under-18s are just one win away from matching the exploits of Alfie Egan, Will Mannion and the rest.
As last year's goal machine Egan was preparing to be a part of the first team squad at home to Port Vale, the current crop started their bid to earn a home tie against Mannion's Hull City.
It was almost as unlikely a victory with five minutes left as the first team's with 10 minutes to go at Curzon Ashton, the young Dons striving in vain it seemed to break down an organised Huddersfield, who had held the lead since the 20th minute.
That lead came courtesy of Cedwyn Scott, who proved a real handful all afternoon. He had already shot narrowly wide and blazed past the post with the goal at his mercy, before he made amends and fired a powerful low shot beyond Josef Bursik to give the Terriers the lead.
It was harsh on Wimbledon, who had matched their opponents up to that point and indeed shaded the possession, albeit with just a Reece Williams-Bowers long shot to show for it.
AFC Wimbledon's youngsters showed all the battling qualities of their senior colleagues as they sought a way back into the tie. With the power of Jayden Antwi and the pace and trickery of Nathan Wood and Judah Chapman, AFC Wimbledon were constantly testing the home defence, but without being able to fashion that clear-cut chance. In fact, the best opportunity in the rest of the half fell to Scott again, but his blistering drive was superbly turned around the post by Bursik with almost the last kick before the interval.
The second-half followed the same pattern as the first with the Dons enjoying plenty of possession, but the Terriers soaking it all up. Wood almost forced an equaliser five minutes in, but a desperate clearance just crept over the bar.
Antwi forced a save from Ryan Schofield with a great shot on the turn and with fifteen minutes left Chapman did the same.
For all Wimbledon’s pressure, the Huddersfield defence looked impenetrable until with four minutes left the Dons forced a corner. Wood delivered it to the back of the box and inexplicably not a single defender was anywhere near with three Wimbledon players having the chance of a shot. It was left to substitute Nicholas Akoto to drill the ball home from 12 yards.
Huddersfield were clearly stunned by the equaliser and the visitors took full advantage. Less than two minutes later, Anthony Hartigan turned Callum Elliott in the area and was fouled for his troubles. Hartigan took the resulting spot-kick himself. With a place in the fourth round beckoning and just a couple of minutes on the clock, he calmly sent Schofield the wrong way to signal ecstatic celebrations among Wimbledon players and staff.
It was a gutsy display, full of character and no little skill, to defeat talented and well organised opponents.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe Bursik, Toby Sibbick, Tom Scott (Ethan Nelson-Roberts 67), Anthony Hartigan, Paul Kalambayi, Antonio Walker (Nick Akoto), Reece Williams-Bowers, Judah Chapman, Nathan Wood, Sean Bird, Jayden Antwi (Tino Carpene).