Defenders on top in hard-fought battle
Young centre-backs Paul Kalambayi and Toby Sibbick emerged with great credit after defying Leyton Orient in a Final Third Development game at the Matchroom Stadium this afternoon.
The defensive pairing were among seven players who stepped up from FA Youth Cup duty for the Under-18s against Chelsea last week and they certainly never let anyone down in a hard-fought 0-0 draw.
Tempers threatened to boil over just after the half hour when Orient’s Sandro Semedo was red-carded.
Orient’s starting 11 featured six first-team squad players including Alan Dunne, Bradley Pritchard and Ollie Palmer, while the Dons had James Shea in goal and David Fitzpatrick boosting the attack after his goal against Yeovil recently.
The Dons worked hard in the opening quarter of an hour to match their hosts and they kept things tight with Shea vocal towards his young back line and captain Dan Gallagher organising in the centre of the park.
Blair Turgott fashioned the first chance after 24 minutes when he set-up Palmer, but he struck wide of Shea's upright. At the other end, Toyosi Olusanya battled away on the left to strike across the face of goal after 31 minutes and shortly afterwards he popped up on the other side and shot just wide.
Orient were reduced to 10 men when Semedo received a straight red for appearing to slap David Fitzpatrick.
Wimbledon did come under pressure though from a galvanised Orient side and they needed Sibbick and Kalambayi (pictured above) to be in top form to defy the hosts.
Dan Ano was substituted at the break with Jayden Antwi given 45 minutes to bring his height to the attack.
After 48 minutes, the lively Olusanya created a chance for Neset Bellikli, who had his shot deflected wide and then Gallagher’s looping header forced Grainger to collect from under his crossbar.
Christian Toonga also struck a fierce effort that forced Grainger to parry and Bellikli produced a curling shot just off target as Wimbledon pressed with the one-man advantage.
Turgott pinged a free-kick off Shea's crossbar after 62 minutes as Leyton Orient fashioned a rare chance on the day, but Wimbledon threatened to win it in the latter stages.
Under-18 captain Jason Stripp bolstered the midfield with Bellikli forced off injured. Neither side were able to break the deadlock in the latter stages, but it was certainly a worthwhile exercise for the young Dons in their development.
AFC Wimbledon Shea, Pilbeam, Kalambayi, Sibbick, Wilson, Fitzpatrick, Gallagher, Toonga, Bellikli (Stripp), Olusanya, Ano (Antwi).