An improved second-half display was not enough to stop AFC Wimbledon from slipping out of the Checkatrade Trophy at Chelsea tonight.
In front of Wimbledon’s new manager Wally Downes, the Dons were beaten 2-1 in the last-32 of the competition. Though the Dons halved a 2-0 deficit with a goal 20 minutes from time, it was unable to spark an equaliser in front of 640 Dons supporters in the away end.
First-team coach Simon Bassey was still in charge of team matters for this game, but Wally Downes joined him on the touchline to offer his experience in the second-half, as the Dons chased an equaliser against Chelsea Under-21s.
Only three players that started the FA Cup win at FC Halifax made the starting 11 for this Checkatrade Trophy tie at Stamford Bridge with Will Nightingale, Anthony Hartigan, and Jake Jervis all retaining their places. It was a strong team for Wimbledon with all of the starting 11 having first-team experience this season, but it included plenty of youth too with Tyler Burey joining Alfie Egan, Toby Sibbick and Hartigan in the side. There was a notable inclusion up front for Wimbledon with James Hanson starting his first game for a month after injury.
Chelsea’s youngsters started the match with more attacking thrust than Wimbledon and there was an early chance for Conor Gallagher, but his shot was wide of the target. Forward Tariq Lamptey was causing plenty of problems early on and he sent over a very good cross from the right, but no one was able to get on the end of it. There was also a shot comfortably wide of Tom King’s goal by Tino Anjorin.
Wimbledon gradually started to come into this match by the midway point of the first-half and an impressive move so nearly opened the scoring. Tyler Burey showed lovely skill on the right to beat his marker, before sending over a lovely cross that Hanson met superbly, but his shot was tipped onto the top of the crossbar and over by Chelsea keeper Jamie Cumming. A corner wasn’t given, even though action replays showed that Cumming had clearly touched it. Shortly afterwards, Cumming was required to make another fine save when he dived to his right to stop Hartigan from opening the scoring.
With the Dons having started to come into it, an opening Chelsea goal came out of the blue. It was perhaps a contentious penalty award too with referee Charlie Breakspear adjudging that Liam Trotter had brought Marc Guehi down in the area. Charlie Brown made no mistake with his cool finish from 12 yards putting Chelsea ahead in the 36th minute. Chelsea perhaps just about deserved the half-time lead.
It was just two minutes into the second-half when Anjorin’s fine cross was well headed home by Daishawn Redan. However, that was not the signal for Chelsea’s youngsters to dominate this match. Wimbledon hit back and started to fashion impressive attacking moves. Following a good team move, Egan fired just wide of the target with a decent attempt. Substitute Joe Pigott’s header also forced Cumming into a decent save.
With 20 minutes left, Wimbledon had the goal back that was deserved for an improved second-half showing. Pinnock’s corner was only half cleared and Wordsworth, with his back to goal, hooked it smartly towards the net, though Will Nightingale appeared to get the final touch. Wimbledon really started to put the pressure on from that point afterwards. Terell Thomas struck a fine effort from just outside the area that Cumming did really well to tip over the crossbar. Wordsworth also had a shot well saved by Cumming, as Chelsea dropped deeper and deeper.
As we progressed towards the latter stages, Wimbledon continued to press forward. Sibbick produced a lovely run down the right and sent over a fine cross, but Jake Jervis headed over the crossbar from close-range. With a few minutes of normal time left, Wordsworth was red-carded after a late challenge on Lamptey. Now with the extra man, Chelsea held on fairly comfortably by holding onto the ball and making it difficult for Wimbledon to exert pressure, as time ran out for a late fightback.
Tom King, Will Nightingale, Terell Thomas, Anthony Hartigan, Jake Jervis, Tyler Garratt, Liam Trotter (Anthony Wordsworth), James Hanson (Joe Pigott), Toby Sibbick, Alfie Egan (Mitch Pinnock), Tyler Burey.