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A tough lesson for young Dons at Northampton

Report: Under-18s struggle to cope with conditions

19 March 2018

A good run of form for AFC Wimbledon Under-18s came to an abrupt halt at Northampton Town on Saturday.

The young Dons suffered a 4-0 defeat, failing to come to terms with playing up the slope in the first-half and in blustery conditions.

Sean Whaler struck the first of a double on the day from the penalty spot to put Northampton in front in the 16th minute. Though the Dons enjoyed good spells of possession, there was little threat, unless Reece Weekes was in possession higher up the pitch. A 1-0 half-time deficit would have offered some encouragement, particularly with the elements in Wimbledon's favour for the second-half. However, 10 minutes before the interval, Jack Currie miscued his back pass and it went straight in for an own goal.

Though Wimbledon attempted to take the game to Northampton at the start of the second-half, chances for the visitors were few and far between. A clinical counter-attack effectively ended the match as a contest in the 64th minute with Whaler producing a quality finish to make it three. Wimbledon did fashion half chances in response, most notably when Weekes came close, but Cameron McWilliams made it four with a 22-yard strike.

Under-18s manager Mark Robinson said: "The lads had been feeling confident and that showed by them choosing to play against the elements in the first-half. However, our play did not match our confidence and we were very ineffective. Keeping the ball is great when you are winning and great when you are trying to stamp your authority on the game, but it must have a purpose. Our play did not have that and Northampton played the conditions much better than us in the first half. They ended up running out worthy and comfortable winners. Young Jack Currie knows he had a poor first- half, but despite him just coming back from injury I decided to throw him to play for the Under-18s. That is because I trust him and he is a real potential prospect. He will learn that more often.

"People who are very successful have lows in their pathways, which is a great thing because they will deal with any lows better than people who have had a smooth ride. The lads are upset and frustrated that they have lost heavily, but if they reflect honestly and work hard next week they will realise some important learning has taken place and they will be all the better for it. The defeat did not come from a poor attitude or a lack of effort. It came from a lack of recognising fully the situation in front of them and adapting appropriately to the conditions. I can live with that because James and I encourage them to play progressive, possession football, whenever possible. We will also need to reflect if we gave the lads enough clarity in terms of playing in such extreme conditions. The Northampton lads were certainly very clear in how they were going to effect the game, given the circumstances in front of them."

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