Paul and Toby learn from Alan Reeves
Central defensive partnership Paul Kalambayi and Toby Sibbick enjoyed their first game together at under-21s level, as the academy players took the next step in their AFC Wimbledon careers.
The duo, who formed a strong pairing at the back as part Mark Robinson’s successful FA Youth Cup side, helped keep a clean sheet and earn a point from a draw against Leyton Orient at The Matchroom Stadium.
“It was a good clean sheet,” said Kalambayi in an interview to Dons Player. “We remained solid – with George Pilbeam and Callum Wilson – and it was a tough game playing against senior League 2 players, but we dug in and played for each other and got the clean sheet.”
“It was a good experience,” added Sibbick on debut. “Playing at Leyton Orient’s ground and playing against two physical strikers was a new test for me, but I think I coped with it well and as Paul said the boys did well to get a clean sheet and a draw.”
Both players accepted they can learn from Development squad coach Alan Reeves.
“Alan Reeves said I played well and with with lots of confidence, but there’s some things to learn like not to ball watch as the ball is getting transferred as the striker could peel away.”
Kalambayi also received words of encouragement from Alan, who played as a centre-back in the Premier League for Wimbledon, but also similar instructions to take on board for his future development.
“He said I played well and we have a good partnership as we played for the under-18s together, but like Toby I must not ball watch and as we get older we’ll improve.”
“The FA Youth Cup run certainly helped me as it gave me more belief and also playing against Chelsea (where the youth team made it to a fifth round proper tie) wasn’t the sort of thing we do week in, week out and we dealt with them quite comfortably at times which is probably what earned a start against Leyton Orient for Toby and me.”
For Sibbick it was a first competitive game at under-21 level and during the second-half he wasn’t afraid to push forward.
“I’ve played in the past for Sunday League teams in a holding role, but Mark Robinson said to me that next year he may give me the chance to sit in front of the back four in pre-season and see how I do,” he said.
“The Youth Cup run was amazing ever since the game against Woking,” added Sibbick, reflecting on an amazing few months.
“The boys were confident every game and the confidence grew when we beat Watford and it grew again when we went to St James’ Park and beat Newcastle and then against Chelsea, in front of three and a half thousand people at our own stadium, just showing what we can do was outstanding.”
The full interview with Paul Kalambayi and Toby Sibbick is now available to Dons Player subscribers.