AFC Wimbledon under-18s coach Mark Robinson gave opportunities to a number of younger players in their latest EFL Youth Alliance game, which turned out to be a useful learning exercise.
A changed line-up, ahead of Tuesday’s FA Youth Cup second round tie at Plymouth, lost 2-0 to second place Southend at our New Malden training ground. However, Mark (pictured) could still see the benefits in the long run in his post-match assessment.
“We were always on par with them and a couple of key moments cost us,” said Mark. “The boys felt aggrieved about a couple of decisions that did not go our way, which was understandable, but my assistant James (Oliver-Pearce) and myself always tell them to focus and learn off the things you have control of.
“So despite being the better team for long spells and creating the better chances, the lads need to look at our finishing. What we did to allow them to counter and what we could have done better when defending our area. They are the key areas effecting the result.
“As frustrating as the other outside influences can be, it's all fluff and nonsense and takes away from the real issues that need work".
Ahead of the midweek trip to Devon, Mark explained his thinking behind his selection for the league game against Southend.
“The boys have had quite a few games recently being involved with under-21 games as well, so we rested quite a few of the older lads ahead of Tuesday’s FA Youth Cup tie and we had Dean Perana serving a suspension.
“I am good friends with their Southend’s manager, so I knew they were going to be at full strength and older, but I am so glad we went with the young boys. We started with three under-16s and an under-15 and we were very good first half.
“There are always things you want to do better, but we played some good football at times, creating four or five great chances and matched them physically. The second half was tougher and it became a bit of a battle. We lost our rhythm as they increased their intensity and asked more questions of us,” said Mark afterwards.
The young Dons started brightly and Bobby Mills, Donte Lodge-Francis, Ayoub Assal and Dylan Hersey all had chances to put Wimbledon ahead, as well as countless good crosses coming in from Tyler Burey and Hersey.
At the other end, the Dons only really had to deal with set-pieces and long balls, but the back three of Rueben Collins, Osaze Urhoghide and Archie Proctor were in excellent form - well marshalled by Tom Miles in goal.
Wimbledon continued to dominate the half, as their man-of-the-match Ossama Ashley and under-16s Olukayode Osu and Assal controlled midfield.
The second half saw Southend increase their intensity and the Dons fell behind in the 49th minute when a clearance from a corner fell to Eren Kinali, who fired home from 16 yards. The game became more of a battle, but the Dons were more than holding their own physically.
A penalty shout was turned down when the Shrimpers full-back handled in the area. Tyrique Spencer-Clarke also had a goal ruled out for a push in the penalty area, as the Dons pushed forward.
However, the Dons were undone again at a set-piece when Marley Hutchings showed more hunger to get on the end of a floated delivery. Even though that’s the way it finished, the Dons continued to create chances right up until the final whistle.