A young Wimbledon under-18s squad gained valuable experience from their long trip to Devon, ahead of a London derby away to Dagenham and Redbridge this Saturday morning.
Despite going down 4-0 at Plymouth Argyle, in their latest Youth Alliance Merit League 2 game, Academy Head of Football Mark Robinson (pictured) wasn’t downhearted by the defeat - against the club that put his side out of the FA Youth Cup earlier this season. Plymouth then went on to record shock victories over both Manchester City and Burnley in an impressive run.
“I was really pleased with the performances of all the young lads and the two under-15s were excellent,” said Mark. “Nobody wants to lose a game, let alone by four goals, but looking at the bigger picture - in terms of development - there were plenty of positives and some important learning points which will put them in good stead for the future.
“We decided to take an even younger squad to Plymouth, so they could experience the preparation needed of a game with a long journey in one day. We took four under-16s and two under-15s along with the first year scholars. Due to a busy schedule we had no time to work as a group, but I thought we started the game really well. We created a lot of chances early on and my only criticism was that we did not work their goalkeeper from some very good positions. We looked a little open at times, but they are a very good side as their FA Youth Cup run showed and on the whole we coped well and looked a constant threat,” said Mark.
“I told the boys not to be down at half time, despite conceding the late goal, then unfortunately after a minute we gave the ball away cheaply and their lad finished brilliantly. We reacted well at first, but we started to get into a few lazy habits.
"When you are chasing the game you cannot do that you have to keep doing the right things and not panic. I was really pleased with the performances of all the young lads and the two under-15s were excellent.”
The Plymouth team contained eight of their FA Youth Cup side, but the young Dons got off to a vibrant start, causing their hosts all kinds of problems. Tyler Burey, Tino Carpene, Bobby Mills and Wimbledon’s man-of-the-match Donte Lodge Francis all had chances in the opening twenty minutes.
Plymouth still offered a threat, but the Dons back three looked confident. After 25 minutes Plymouth did have a better spell and created a couple of half chances, but the Dons still carried a threat and Mills could have put the visitors ahead on 35 minutes, but he did not realise quite how much time he had.
It looked like it was going to be goalless at the break, in an exciting first half, but the Dons gave away possession cheaply deep in their half and Plymouth worked the ball well, as Matt Ward finished smartly from six yards. Unfortunately, just a minute into the second half, a loose pass fell to Klaidi Lolos - who finished brilliantly from 22 yards.
Wimbledon reacted well though and Reece Weekes and Francis went close, while Carpene shot wide following a good move. The game was as good as over though, when Lolos scored on 63 minutes as the Dons defended poorly from a corner.
Things got worse for Wimbledon when Mills twisted his ankle when he shot wide. The young Dons had used all their substitutes and had to play the last twenty minutes with ten men. They held their own though and young Julian Sarmiento-Ramirez and Tristan Goodridge both had efforts, before Billy Craske added a fourth for Plymouth in the 94th minute.