By Chris Slavin
An injury-time winner from Dean Parrett earned a dramatic victory for AFC Wimbledon in the Checkatrade Trophy tonight.
On an evening full of positives for Wimbledon, Toby Sibbick struck twice and Egli Kaja once to help Neal Ardley's men to a 4-3 victory. That was the same score-line as in the first group match at Barnet and goals in any game will be welcome for anyone connected with AFC Wimbledon after recent struggles.
AFC Wimbledon's starting 11 included just two players who started the game against Rochdale on Saturday with Tom Soares and Cody McDonald both retaining their places. However, it was a side containing plenty of experience with Callum Kennedy, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles and Harry Forrester all involved. Tottenham Hotspur decided to make four changes from the Under-21 side that drew 2-2 against Luton Town in their first group game.
Wimbledon threatened to score early on with Harry Forrester leading the charge. The attacking midfielder picked up on a loose ball, before charging forward and unleashing a shot that flashed over the crossbar. A lovely through ball from Alfie Egan then sent Egli Kaja racing through, but he was just unable to get enough on his cross to find a Dons player in the middle. At the other end, it required superb defensive work from Darius Charles to stop Shilow Tracey from going through on goal. However, there was no reprieve for Wimbledon in the 17th minute when Tracey found space on the left flank after taking a pass from Kazaiah Sterling in his stride, before finishing clinically. Tracey had fared better than his last visit to the Cherry Red Records Stadium. The pacy forward had played for Ebbsfleet United in an FA Youth Cup defeat to our Under-18s two seasons ago, the young Dons keeping him quiet on that occasion.
Far from allowing Tottenham's youngsters to gain confidence from the early opener, Wimbledon conjured up an instant response that earned an equaliser. A dangerous cross from Callum Kennedy won a corner that Paul Robinson got on the end of and when Spurs failed to clear Cody McDonald's flick-on, Toby Sibbick headed the ball home. In a flowing first-half, Tom Soares struck a brilliant effort from outside the box that Spurs keeper Brandon Austin did well to keep out. During a good spell for Wimbledon, Forrester showed good skill going forward with Anthony Hartigan displaying his usual assurance on the ball in midfield.
During an end to end first-half, Tottenham marched back into the lead in style 11 minutes before half-time when more good play down the left – this time from Keanan Bennetts – set-up a chance for Samuel Shashoua and he made no mistake with a fine finish from close-range. However, it didn't take long for Wimbledon to equalise once again. A corner was only half cleared and Egli Kaja cracked home an absolute screamer from the edge of the area, Spurs keeper Austin left with no chance. It could have been even better for Wimbledon at half-time with Forrester striking a shot just over before the break.
Wimbledon wasted no time going back on the front foot at the start of the second-half with Kaja leading the charge. Pouncing on a loose ball, Kaja powered forward and struck a fierce drive that Austin did well to handle. In a very entertaining start to this second-half with both sides really going for it, Spurs regained the lead when Bennetts found space on the left and crossed for Sterling, who made it 3-2. The lead lasted less than a minute with Wimbledon equalising on the hour mark. Sibbick tried his luck from 20 yards with a powerful drive that Austin found too hot to handle, the Spurs keeper only able to help it into his own net.
During an all-action spell, Wimbledon threatened to grab the advantage through substitute Lyle Taylor, who was denied by Austin, after Alfie Egan had set-up the chance. Hartigan then struck a fierce volley that flashed over the crossbar. Neal Ardley made another change midway through the second-half and it was a significant moment for Dean Parrett, who came onto face his old club with Forrester the man to make way.
Wimbledon almost earned the lead for the first time after a lovely move with 10 minutes to go. Hartigan put a nice ball over the top for Taylor, who held the ball up well for Egan, but the midfielder's shot was just wide. The Dons created an even better chance five minutes from time when Sibbick sent over a searching low cross from the right to find Taylor, but he shot over from close-range. It looked like we were heading for penalties with the score locked at 3-3 in injury-time, but there was still more drama to come. Taylor sent over a lovely cross from the left and Parrett headed home from close-range. It was a second successive 4-3 victory in the competition for the Dons and rounded off a match that was very high in entertainment value.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Toby Sibbick, Callum Kennedy, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Alfie Egan, Anthony Hartigan, Tom Soares (Liam Trotter), Egli Kaja, Cody McDonald (Lyle Taylor), Harry Forrester (Dean Parrett).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.