By Rob Cornell
A double from Great Evans got the title push back on track for AFC Wimbledon Under-18s with victory over Peterborough, while the winning line-up also offered a possible glimpse of things to come.
First-year scholars Finlay Macnab and Jack Rudoni combined well again in midfield and could well be at the centre of plans for next season’s squad, following a deserved 2-0 victory in the Youth Alliance Merit League.
“Winning the league is all down to them and that should come naturally,” said Academy Head of Football and Coach Mark Robinson. “James Oliver-Pearce (Assistant Coach) and I are just looking for continued development.
“I was really pleased with the win and the clean sheet. For the first ten minutes, they caused us a few problems early on as the wind was going with them and they were quite direct. Our keeper Tom Miles was very dominant. He came out and claimed crosses and punched a couple of efforts away when he had to and did very well,
“We showed a real desire to keep a clean sheet. Once we got the opening goal I thought we played some really good football on a difficult surface and we looked a threat. We had plenty of shots, moved the ball well and got crosses in at the right times – not just for the sake of crossing. I thought we were thoroughly dominant.
“At half-time we talked about managing the game, but at the same time playing our brand of football and making sure that we imposed ourselves and I thought we did that well.
“We want to push more under-16s up into the side,” said Mark. “Every under-16 player has played for us this year and we’ve had a few under-15s. We want to give them continued opportunities when we can, but we matched up against Peterborough and they had a couple of lads out there on professional contracts. Of course we want to win football matches, but we want to enhance their strengths."
Peterborough looked to impose themselves from the start when they found space inside the first minute and Miles was forced into action twice, making a flying save as the visitors earned a corner.
Wimbledon's response was also impressive as they moved the ball quickly between Macnab and Rudoni for the front pairing of Tino Carpene and Evans (pictured), who soon had the Peterborough defence on alert. After just seven minutes the hosts took the lead as they moved the ball well again for Carpene to tee-up Evans for a confident finish inside the penalty area.
Peterborough were quick to test Miles again, when he was called into action on the goal line and there were appeals for a penalty from another Posh attack shortly after, as the visitors pushed for an equaliser.
It was Wimbledon who doubled their lead though, with a second finish from Evans after being supplied by Rudoni. Opposition heads didn't drop, as they continued to look to test Miles' goal, but Wimbledon moved the ball well through the midfield combination of Macnab and Rudoni.
Miles acted decisively in goal when called upon on the half hour mark, while at the other end Reece Weekes moved the ball quickly on the counter attack as Wimbledon attempted to put the game beyond reach. A third goal and a hat-trick for Evans almost came about two minutes before the break, as he curled an effort over the crossbar following another fluid move.
At half-time, Mark Robinson highlighted patience in the search for further goals. The desire for a clean sheet was evident and the group were warned to remain calm, in the face of Peterborough’s frustration of being two goals adrift.
Skipper Ethan Nelson-Roberts led the charge with a early effort at the start of the second-half, as Peterborough’s Director of Football Barry Fry patrolled the touchline. The visitors worked hard to win the ball and Miles blocked them out again at close range.
Tyler Burey replaced the impressive Macnab ten minutes into the second half and was keen to make an instant impression. The energetic substitute continued to be a threat down the wing.
With just under twenty minutes left, Wimbledon switched the forward pairing, bringing on Bobby Mills and Donte Lodge-Francis for Carpene and Evans. A couple of minutes later, Mills worked hard to carve out an opportunity in the penalty area, which resulted in a corner after a Nelson-Roberts shot was deflected.
Although there were no further goals in the second-half, the young Dons had worked well together as a team to earn victory.