By Chris Slavin
Wimbledon’s development squad paid the price for missed opportunities this afternoon with a double from Mikael Ndjoli condemning the Dons to defeat.
A goal in each half from Ndjoli was enough to earn a 2-0 victory for AFC Bournemouth in a match played at Merstham FC and the defeat dented Wimbledon’s hopes of winning the Central League South Division.
Another impressive display from Egli Kaja (pictured) was a positive for Wimbledon and there was also a second-half appearance for Seth Owens, the left-back returning from a long-term knee injury.
Wimbledon created opportunities in a much-improved second-half, but the finishing touch was missing and Bournemouth made the Dons pay at the other end.
Alan Reeves selected a young starting 11 with only Egli Kaja having recently featured for the first-team and Bournemouth’s side was also one with similar inexperience. Bournemouth marched into the lead in just the eighth minute after a fine team move down their left ended with Keelan O’Connell crossing for Mikael Ndjoli and he finished clinically. That came just seconds after Egli Kaja had forced Bournemouth keeper Mark Travers into an impressive save.
Bournemouth showed good quality in possession with Nnamdi Ofoboroh’s midfield play catching the eye. Though Wimbledon held firm in defence, there was a decent free-kick opportunity for Matt Worthington, but his effort was too close to Nik Tzanev.
It took until midway through the first-half for Wimbledon to build momentum. A shot from Kaja was only half cleared and Alfie Egan tried his luck with a powerful effort that flashed just over the crossbar. Then good work by Ossama Ashley won a free-kick just outside the box, but the resulting free-kick from Richard Pingling drifted wide. At this stage, Wimbledon’s high pressing game was starting to have an effect, but chances had been hard to come by as we approached the half hour mark. Trialist Tommy Wood also headed just over after a fine run and cross from Kaja.
During the rest of the first-half, Wimbledon struggled to build on that spell and Bournemouth comfortably held onto their 1-0 lead until half-time. The Dons made a half-time change and it meant a significant moment for Seth Owens, who returned after a long-term injury, with Reuben Collins withdrawn. Wimbledon significantly increased the tempo after half-time, pinning Bournemouth back, but a sharp Bournemouth break opened up the Dons. Ndjoli and O’Connell combined to set-up Kyle Taylor, but he had his shot superbly blocked by Osaze Urhoghide, who also blocked the follow-up.
Kaja showed impressive work-rate to win the ball 10 minutes into the second-half, before picking out Pingling, but his header was over the crossbar. Pingling then showed good footwork to create a shooting opportunity, but his shot was too high. It was his last action of the game with Tino Carpene handed a chance to make a difference. It didn’t take long for the Under-18s striker to get into the thick of the action and he turned smartly inside from the right, before curling over the crossbar.
Though Tzanev was forced to make a decent save to turn away a free-kick from Charlie Seaman, Wimbledon’s best spell came around the hour mark. Kaja, whose influence grew in the second-half, showed good skill on the right, but his subsequent shot was over the crossbar. Kaja also did well to find space in the box, but his shot was deflected and the ball was easily grasped by Travers in the Bournemouth goal.
Despite Wimbledon’s improvement at the start of the second-half, Bournemouth managed to stem the tide from 70 minutes onwards and the Cherries sealed victory seven minutes from time. Paul Kalamabayi was adjudged to have brought down Ndjoli and he picked himself up to strike a fine shot into the bottom corner. Wimbledon almost earned a late consolation when Urhoghide shot just wide. A goal continued to prove elusive for the Dons though and the difference between the two sides was that Bournemouth simply took their chances on the day.
AFC Wimbledon: Nik Tzanev, Toby Sibbick, Osaze Urhoghide, Ossama Ashley, Paul Kalambayi, Reuben Collins (Seth Owens), Egli Kaja, Kosta Sparta, Tommy Wood, Alfie Egan, Richard Pingling (Tino Carpene).