Three second-half goals earned an impressive away victory for AFC Wimbledon Under-18s at Stevenage on Saturday.
The Dons triumphed 4-1 thanks to a double from Ayoub Assal and goals from Zach Robinson and Donte Lodge Francis. Stevenage had held the young Dons to 1-1 at the break, but they could not handle Wimbledon's improved second-half display.
Stevenage came into this match in second place in the table and they started brightly with Dons keeper Sami Nabbad forced into a good save. Wimbledon marched into the lead though in the fourth minute when Assal finished emphatically after good pressing from Richard Mbele had won the ball back. The Dons had a big penalty shout turned down when David Fisher reached a through ball first before the Stevenage keeper, but the referee adjudged that there was no foul.
Assal showed his quality once again midway through the first-half when he made space for a shot impressively, but his shot was just wide. It was 1-1 though in the 26th minute when a cross was diverted in for an own goal. There was a setback shortly afterwards when Wimbledon substitute Archie Proctor had to go off injured. That meant a league debut for Isaac Olaniyan. Initially, the Dons missed Proctor's vocal organisation, as Stevenage finished the half strongly.
The Dons started the second-half on the front foot and less than two minutes after the break it was 2-1 when Olaniyan found Assal, who scored his second from close-range. Wimbledon started to dominate once again with Mbele controlling midfield. Wimbledon's front three of Zach Robinson, Fisher and Assal were a constant threat, while full-backs Paul Osew and Hussain Bilal joined in at every opportunity.
Wimbledon's pressure paid off midway through the second-half when the excellent Fisher beat his marker for pace and sent over a perfect cross for Robinson, who got across his marker brilliantly, before producing a clinical finish. Victory was sealed nine minutes from time when Paul Osew found Taylor, who powered forward and though his shot was saved, substitute Lodge Francis smashed home emphatically from close range.
Manager Mark Robinson said: "We had moments when Stevenage played through us too easily, but we also had long spells when we were very good. Stevenage are a good side with good movement, so overall I was fairly pleased with how we dealt with them defensively. We started very well, but we lost some momentum when Archie Proctor came off. He's not only a very good player, but a good organiser. It did though provide Under-16 Isaac Olaniyan with an opportunity for his league debut. I think he found it a bit of an eye opener as he was up against a player who had played first-team football, but he can be pleased with his efforts.
"KJ Osu did very well for us as he had to slot in at centre back, showing his versatility once again, as last week he had to switch to full-back due to an injury. The lads are in a good place, enjoying their football, and they are all developing due to the style of football they are playing. There is plenty more to come though, as long as they remain relentless in their approach to training and learning."
Highlights of the match against Stevenage can be viewed by clicking on the link below.