By Chris Slavin
Darius Charles stepped up his recuperation after a knee operation by completing 90 minutes for our development squad against Crawley Town.
The experienced defender produced an assured display at the heart of defence in a 1-0 friendly defeat at the training ground this afternoon.
Tom Soares and Harry Forrester also both played the full match with Jimmy Abdou shaking off any rustiness due to his suspension with a 60-minute run-out.
A goal just five minutes in by Crawley's Jordan Roberts ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides today. That came just seconds after Crawley keeper Yusuf Mersin had denied Jayden Antwi at the other end. With Crawley's first-team manager Harry Kewell watching on from the sidelines, the visitors sprayed the ball around well early on. They almost doubled their advantage when Joe McDonnell did well to win a race for the ball and headed clear, but Taj Aryan lobbed just wide from the follow-up.
Charles brought the ball out from the back on a couple of occasions in the first-half, most notably when he picked out Forrester with a lovely ball, but he was just unable to get through on goal. Forrester, who looked sharp throughout, also had a header saved by Mersin in the first-half.
The second-half started with Wimbledon really pushing on. Egli Kaja and Forrester impressed on both flanks after the break and the latter set-up Antwi, who had a close-range effort blocked. Then Antwi came so close with a header just wide, after another cross from Forrester.
As the second-half progressed, more chances followed for Wimbledon. Osaze Urhoghide, who entered the fray for Neset Bellikli, showed lovely touch to beat three challenges before finding Alfie Egan in space, but he shot just over the crossbar. Kaja, who produced plenty of strong running down the right, shot across the face of goal and also created a half chance for Egan, but his shot was blocked.
In the latter stages, McDonnell kept Wimbledon in it with a brilliant save to deny Moussa Sanoh. With just minutes to go, Forrester cut inside smartly and unleashed a shot that Mersin did well to turn aside, but Crawley held out for the victory. Despite defeat, it was a very encouraging afternoon for Wimbledon with key first-teamers edging towards full fitness.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Neset Bellikli (Osaze Urhoghide), Toby Sibbick, Paul Kalambayi, Darius Charles, Jimmy Abdou (trialist), Tom Soares, Harry Forrester, Egli Kaja, Alfie Egan, Jayden Antwi.