Under-18s produce a bold show against senior opposition
AFC Wimbledon Under-18s made light of the old cliché “men against boys” on Saturday as they came so close to salvaging a draw against Walton Casuals’ first-team.
The young Dons rallied admirably after falling 3-0 down with a Jayden Antwi double threatening to upset their Ryman Division One South opponents.
about the spirit his side showed against more experienced opposition.Dons PlayerFollowing the 3-2 defeat, manager Mark Robinson spoke enthusiastically to
At half-time, it was 0-0, but the game changed significantly after the break with plenty of lessons to be learned.
"In the second-half we changed to a diamond, which the first-team play, and we haven't really had experience of playing this system,” said Mark. “Their manager gave them a right rollicking at half time and they came out very noisy and loud and we didn't understand the shape well enough. We got caught out with a couple of crosses, but that happens. This is why I arrange these games because we went from young men who were loving it to looking like we were a little bit scared."
"It lasted for twenty minutes, we lost our shape and I made a couple of changes. Then we got the goal and finished strongly to get back to 3-2. If anyone was going to get another goal, it was us. It was nice that the lads came back into it. We kept at it, we’ve just had a really good chat, and they understand what we were doing wrong.
“There is nothing but positives. I am quite happy that we had that 20-minute spell because it gives us a benchmark. We can always refer back to it and say ‘if you are not competitive and you don’t communicate with each other, then this is what can happen’. But I look back at the Tooting & Mitcham game last year and although we played some lovely football in that game, mentality-wise there was more to be pleased about this time around. The football I know will come, I have no doubt about that.”
Wimbledon’s first-half showing had given Casuals plenty to think about and Stags boss Anthony Gale attempted to stir his players into action with a stern half-time team-talk.
The young Dons could have been in front early on at the Elmbridge Xcel Leisure Centre when Anthony Hartigan was put through by trialist Sean Bird, but his effort was just too high. At the other end, Dons goalkeeper Joe Bursik reacted well to deal with pressure from Casuals.
Wimbledon refused to be intimidated by much more experienced opposition, having the majority of the possession in the opening quarter. Captain Toby Sibbick was commanding at centre-back with Osaze Urhoghide also impressing in defence. Hartigan won tackles in midfield and Reece Williams-Bowers put the opposing back-line under constant pressure.
Bursik had to tip over after 28 minutes and from the corner the impressive Hartigan had to come off after taking a blow to the face as Bursik attempted to clear the ball. Ethan Nelson-Roberts replaced him.
Impressive attacking play from Nathan Wood drove the Dons forward with his overall display earning praise from manager Mark Robinson afterwards. Wimbledon could have gone in 1-0 up at the interval when Urhoghide had the ball in the net with a towering header, but it was ruled out for offside.
The match was turned on its head during a 15-minute spell at the start of the second-half as Casuals marched into a 3-0 lead, the home players responding to their manager’s rallying call.
At 3-0 down, the young Dons had a mountain to climb, but they so nearly reduced the arrears through Great Nii Okai Evans, who shot just over from long-range. With 15 minutes remaining, Wimbledon did get one back when Ethan Nelson-Roberts set-up Antwi, who made no mistake with a clinical finish.
Wimbeldon continued to drive forward and Antwi notched a second with six minutes to go after Williams-Bowers turned provider. Though they ran out of time to muster an equaliser, there was a lot to be pleased about afterwards for the coaching staff.
First-half starting line-up: Bursik, Urhoghide, Bird, Sibbick, Scott, Wood, Chapman, Hartigan, Akoto, Carpene, Williams-Bowers.
Second-half starting line-up: Wingate, Scott, Sibbick, Bird, Urhoghide, Cave, Roberts, Walker, Cockle, Antwi, Evans.
WDON’s Rob Cornell caught up with Mark Robinson afterwards for an interview and this can be viewed on Dons Player.