A 78th minute equaliser from Tino Carpene earned a share of the spoils for AFC Wimbledon Under-18s in a thrilling match against Northampton on Saturday.
In a topsy-turvy match that ended 3-3, Great Nii Okai-Evans and Carpene (pictured) had opportunities to put Wimbledon ahead, but visitors Northampton snatched the lead 10 minutes in through Morgan Roberts. The Dons gradually started to put good passing moves together and the equaliser arrived just five minutes later when Jack Rudoni scored from close range. The Dons were now playing much better football and it was no surprise when Osaze Urgohide edged Wimbledon in front in the 25th minute, Ethan Nelson Roberts providing the assist.
It looked like the Dons would go on to dominate, but three minutes later Rudoni was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area. It looked very harsh with Rudoni so close to his opponent and the ball going away from goal, but Northampton took full advantage with Sean Whaler making no mistake from 12 yards.
In the second-half, Northampton pressed high in numbers to disrupt the Dons playing out and it had the required effect. Too often the Dons did not find an alternative solution and lost rhythm. Although it was a half of few chances, the Cobblers edged momentum and it was 3-2 to the visitors 20 minutes from time, Sean Whaler netting his second. The Dons responded well though, finding a little more fluency and equalising 12 minutes from time. The lively Carpene added the finish to excellent work from Jack Currie. No clear-cut chances to win followed and Academy Head of Football Mark Robinson felt the outcome was a fair reflection of the match.
"We have been dominating the first half of games recently and found teams were really getting into us in the second-half of matches to disrupt our rhythm," said Mark afterwards. "We did some work this week on how to overcome this. Despite us having two good chances in the first two minutes, we took it too literally and we're going too long when there was no need. We did get some rhythm going leading up to our equaliser and up until we took the lead, but the penalty decision for their equaliser seemed to knock the lads out their stride.
"In the second-half they utilised a very high press and once again we did not find solutions well enough. We were nowhere near the levels we had reached in the last couple of weeks, but there were some decent moments. The fact that opponents are continually having to up their game in the second-half of matches and press high in numbers is a positive - we must be getting some things right. We just need to become more adaptable, so that we can maintain our momentum.
"Yet again, we had U-15s and an U-16 involved, which shows that even though we always want to win, we never lose sight of development being crucial. This includes working with various players, who play in slightly different roles, or on their opposite sides, to develop them tactically and technically. We had players who came into this season barely able to use their weaker foot, but they are now attempting and often completing 40 yard passes."
Man of the Match for Wimbledon was Reuben Collins.