AFC Wimbledon Under-18s put a difficult run behind them by hitting the goal trail to win an eight-goal thriller.
Great Nii Okai Evans was man of the match in a 5-3 victory with Tyler Burey netting twice, but manager Mark Robinson was far from happy with his players for letting their opponents back into the match.
Wimbledon marched into a 3-0 lead inside 22 minutes, Evans opening the scoring with a smart finish from 10 yards. In-form Osaze Urhoghide then got in on the act when he netted his second goal in as many games after an assist from Ossama Ashley. Though Orient had an even share of possession early on, Wimbledon had the greater cutting edge and a third arrived midway through the half when Reuben Collins found Bobby Mills, who cut inside, sold a dummy, and then finished superbly from 12 yards.
At 3-0 up, Wimbledon failed to maintain the momentum and allowed Orient to gain a foothold in the game. After a slow start to the second-half from Wimbledon, Tyler Burey extended the lead when he chased down a long clearance and forced the ball home after a deflection off the Orient keeper. Once again, the Dons seemed happy with what they had and allowed Orient good possession. On 64 minutes, Sam Dalby scored what looked like being a consolation for Orient, but a minute later he scored again from the penalty spot after a foul in the box by Urhoghide.
With the Dons now looking rattled, Amin Benyoucef curled home brilliantly from 22 yards to put Orient just one goal behind. Wimbledon needed an impressive solo goal from Burey to earn breathing space again. Burey picked up the ball 40 yards out, beat two challenges, and finished expertly from 19 yards. Though the Dons did not play the football of the opening 20 minutes, Evans hit the woodwork twice and Donte narrowly missed from 15 yards after out after his pace proved too much for Orient.
The manner of victory led to mixed emotions for Mark Robinson, as he expressed in his post-match thoughts.
“It remains quite a difficult situation as our job is to develop better footballers for the club. In the week leading up to the game we had to spend more time than I wanted on our intensity and pressing because it has been some way off. I am still trying to get the players to understand that if they are not better learners with regards to what we do off the ball, it restricts the amount of time we can spend on their personal development, whether it be technical, tactical or physical.
“Our social/psychological programme is ongoing. If they get this right, it gives us the framework to work more on the things that excite them and the technical detail to make it happen. In the first 22 minutes we had good intensity and structure, tied in with half decent communication. Our football was quite good at times, but we carried a real threat and the three goals showed that. The rest of the game was bizarre.
“Our youth teams of the past would have smelt blood and relentlessly gone in pursuit of goals, while retaining good shape, but our lads seemed to become more nervous. I can understand it to a certain extent. In their heads they are in need of a win, but I need the mentality that they can be relentless and ruthless in their attacking play, while keeping a clean sheet mentality as a group. To have that though you need to love hard work and be able to constantly communicate throughout your units. This is where we need a huge improvement.”