Kaja penalty not enough in Quarter-Final defeat
AFC Wimbledon exited the London Senior Cup at the quarter final stage on a night when penalties proved decisive, but without going to a shoot-out.
Southern Counties East League side Cray Valley Paper Mills clinched victory and a semi-final place with a decisive spot-kick at the end of regular time, shortly after Egli Kaja (pic) had levelled from a penalty.
“We didn't pass the ball well enough, we brought on Egli and Neset Bellikli in the second half which looked like making a difference, but the pitch wasn't great," said coach Alan Reeves afterwards.
Seth Owens captained a young Dons team made up of many of the Dons under-18s side looking to impress. Toyosi Olusanya also with first team experience figured in the starting line-up. Toby Sibbick, on the bench at Chesterfield this season, was in defence while Kaja and Paul Kalambayi were among those named on the bench.
Jake Reeves, who scored the opening goal in Tuesday night's 2-0 victory over Milton Keynes in League One, gave his support to the side by watching on from the side lines.
The hosts edged an uneventful first quarter of the game, playing up slope and looking to test Nik Tzanev in the Dons goal.
There was an opportunity to open the scoring after the half hour mark when Owens was brought down in the area. Reece Williams-Bowers took the spot-kick, but it was pushed away by Jordan Carey in the Millers goal.
It proved costly as a few minutes later, after 36 minutes, it was Cray Valley who took the lead with a powerful and accurate strike past Tzanev from Ben Francis.
With half-time looming, Callum Phillip produced a shot from distance to test Carey, while at the other end Tzanev looked uneasy with what seemed a routine catch. Despite a late rally from both sides, it had been poor to watch.
The young Dons struggled to make an impact in the early stages of the second half. Just before the hour mark, Nathan Wood delivered a decent free-kick after Williams-Bowers was brought down. Frustrations threatened to boil over as both sides squared up to each other on the hour. Carey was booked for crossing the half way line and joining the argument.
With a change in fortune very much required for Wimbledon, Kaja replaced Olusanya and shortly after Bellikli and Danny Gallagher replaced Phillip and Wood, with the last quarter of the game to come.
Bellikli livened up proceedings with a shot that ultimately bounced off the upright at the base of the post. Bellikli went close again with fifteen minutes to go as his free-kick glanced off the crossbar. Under-18s coach Mark Robinson was pleased with Antonio Walker's contribution.
However, Wimbledon were kept at bay, restricted to long range efforts and their passing became wayward as Cray Valley threatened a second goal.
With three and a half minutes to go though, with the Dons seemingly on their way out, Kaja won a penalty and scored. It was short lived though as Cray Valley regained the lead from a penalty in the final minute of regular time through Ryan Fowler.
Wimbledon's attempts to equalise proved to be in vain as the hosts held on during six minutes of time added on.
AFC Wimbledon: Tzanev, Akoto, Owens (c), Chapman, Sibbick, Bird, Walker, Phillip (Bellikli), Olusanya (Kaja), Williams-Bowers, Wood (Gallagher).