REPORT: Under-18s extend impressive run
Under-18s manager Mark Robinson saluted a solid defensive display from the young Dons after a hard-fought draw made it 11 league matches unbeaten.
A 0-0 draw at Gillingham was not exactly what AFC Wimbledon were looking for as they aim to chase down Merit League One leaders Leyton Orient, but Mark took plenty of positives from it.
In particular, an unbeaten league run since defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge on 28 November is particularly praiseworthy and only four players started in Kent from the side that faced Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup.
“The boys were bitterly disappointed that they did not win the game, but I see it slightly differently,” said Mark. “I thought we were very good in the first half hour and we should have scored in that spell. That did not happen and then the game became very scrappy with both defences coming out on top. That’s football, it can happen at any level, and Gillingham are a very strong and competitive side.
“I saw plenty of positives. We kept a clean sheet with a back four playing together for the first time, including Osaze Urhoghide, who was outstanding. Louie Cockle also put in his most influential performance since his return and the draw means that we’ve lost only twice in 17 games, despite continually shuffling the pack.
“We started with only players from the 11 who started against Chelsea. There were plenty of things we could have done better after the first 30 minutes, but we will address them in due course. We got plenty right though too, particularly off the ball and in terms of our desire and mentality to keep a clean sheet.”
Midfielder Seanan McKillop (pictured in action v Watford in the FA Youth Cup) earned the man of the match award with his solid display in the centre of the park offering protection to the back four. However, defensive qualities were not really needed in the first 30 minutes as Wimbledon dominated with McKillop, Alfie Egan and Cockle helping to control matters in midfield and therefore create chances.
Gillingham grew into the game though and in the second-half it needed Jack Wingate to make a brilliant save to deny them. Osaze Urhoghide also produced an impressive display at the back after stepping up to this level for the first time. At the other end, Dan Ano, Reece Batchelor and Egan all had chances to win it after the break, but the young Dons had to settle for a point that at least keeps their unbeaten league run going.