A superb free-kick from Jack Rudoni earned a creditable share of the spoils for AFC Wimbledon Under-18s against Fulham on Saturday.
It capped an impressive fightback from the young Dons in a match played at Carshalton FC with the strike from Rudoni securing a 2-2 draw after Fulham had held a 2-0 lead.
The Dons started very brightly and enjoyed the lion's share of the possession. Half chances were created for Donte Lodge Francis and Bobby Mills as Wimbledon impressed with their passing and pressing. With 15 minutes on the clock, the Fulham keeper had to make a triple save to deny a Dons trialist and follow-ups from Reece Weekes. However, Fulham marched into the lead just a few minutes later and they built on that by taking a grip on the game. With Wimbledon struggling to maintain the energy and pressing that was such a feature early on, Fulham doubled the advantage before the break.
Wimbledon nearly bounced back a minute later when Bobby Mills got in behind with excellent pace but his lob bounced off a post. Both teams made changes for the second half and again it was the Dons that started the half well. With Jack Currie causing havoc down the left, Wimbledon looked a constant threat. The exciting Ayoub Assal had already been denied after breaking through one on one and Zachery Robinson had rattled the crossbar from 22 yards. Wimbledon earned reward when Finlay McNabb sent over a far post free-kick that was met excellently by Reuben Collins to send it back across goal and Robinson rose highest to head home. Wimbledon nearly equalised when the lively David Fischer missed narrowly after more great work by Currie.
Matt Kirby in the Wimbledon goal dealt comfortably with any Fulham threat and Archie Proctor marshalled his back three excellently. It looked like the Dons were not going to get the result the performance deserved, but on 88 minutes Robinson was brought down 22 yards out and Man of the Match Jack Rudoni curled home brilliantly into the top corner. The game finished honours even, which was the minimum Wimbledon deserved, according to manager Mark Robinson.
"It was obviously a tough first pre-season to have, but all of us are pleased how it went," said Mark. "Fulham have already played two games and that showed in the first half. We got into them with great energy in the first half and up to their goal we were the better side on and off the ball. We ran out of steam a little and they took control in the last 15 minutes. We held pretty firm, but we just struggled to ease the pressure by keeping the ball like we had in the first part of the first half.
"For our first game we were very good in the second half. We only really did any tactical work on Thursday and Friday. We have had been working on fitness and ball speed, so it was a positive start. It would be fair to say for 70 minutes we more than matched them as a team and more importantly we looked like we had good talent against a top category one academy. Nobody will get carried away as they are a very grounded group and they know the hard work to improve individually and collectively will be relentless."
Man of the Match for Wimbledon was Jack Rudoni.