AFC Wimbledon paid the price for missed early chances tonight with Swansea's youngsters taking full advantage in the Checkatrade Trophy.
An 89th minute winner from Aaron Lewis secured a 1-0 win for Swansea Under-21s at the Cherry Red Records Stadium after the Dons had failed to capitalise on superior possession and chances.
The visitors deserved credit for staying in the game and earning the chance to take a League One scalp, but it was another example of Wimbledon squandering countless opportunities in front of goal.
Neal Ardley selected a strong side for this second group match in the Checkatrade Trophy with Rod McDonald, Scott Wagstaff, Tom Soares, and Joe Pigott all retained from the side that started against Scunthorpe on Saturday.
All of the rest of the outfield starting 11 had played League One football this season, apart from Tommy Wood, who was making his full first-team debut after signing in the summer. Joe McDonnell was given an opportunity between the sticks for the second time this season after his penalty-saving heroics at The Valley in the first Checkatrade Trophy match.
AFC Wimbledon made a swift start against the Swans, putting pressure on their much younger opponents from the outset. It didn't take long for the Dons to threaten with Tom Soares heading just over, before a shot from Toby Sibbick arrowed wide of the far post. Wagstaff showed plenty of attacking verve down the right early on and his cross set-up an early chance for Pigott, but his header lacked power and it allowed Swansea keeper Steven Benda to gather the ball comfortably. Pigott returned the favour with a lovely ball to find Wagstaff in space on the right, but his shot was well saved by Benda. At the other end, Swansea threatened for the first time when Botti Biabi headed over the crossbar.
With the midway point of the first-half approaching, the attacking momentum continued from Wimbledon and Wood started and finished a lovely move involving Wagstaff, but his volley was well blocked. As the first-half wore on, Swansea's youngsters started to become more confident and they came close to the opener through Aaron Lewis. The full-back showed good footwork to find space on the right inside the area and his powerful drive was superbly saved by McDonnell, who was at full stretch to turn it around the post. Wimbledon almost secured the opener when Benda dropped Tyler Garratt's cross and the ball fell nicely for Mitch Pinnock, but the Swansea keeper got back well to save.
The half-time score of 0-0 was certainly an encouraging score-line for Swansea's young team and Wimbledon had to try and recapture the high tempo from the start of this game. Neal Ardley made his first change at half-time with Tom Soares withdrawn and Liam Trotter taking his place in the heart of midfield. Anthony Hartigan attempted to take matters into his own hands early in the second-half, but his shot from distance flashed over the crossbar. The Dons put together a lovely move when Trotter and Pinnock combined well down the left and the latter's cross was met by Wagstaff, but his header was over the crossbar.
Wimbledon made a second change just after the hour with Andy Barcham entering the fray for Joe Pigott. The Dons were finding it difficult to break down a resolute Swansea defence and the visitors threatened at the other end when Biabi found space in the area, but McDonnell did well to save the effort. Wimbledon's best chance of the second-half so far arrived in the 76th minute when Pinnock sent over a lovely cross from the left that found Will Nightingale, but he volleyed over the crossbar from close-range. At the other end, Swansea threatened to snatch victory when Jacob Jones crossed to the far post for Liam Cullen, but he headed over.
As we entered the latter stages, Wimbledon were struggling to conjure up a winner with Swansea having defended doggedly. And there was a sting in the tail for Wimbledon in the 89th minute as Swansea snatched a late winner. Will Nightingale was penalised for a foul just outside the box and the free-kick was taken short to Lewis, who curled home emphatically from just outside the area.
AFC Wimbledon: Joe McDonnell, Toby Sibbick, Tyler Garratt, Will Nightingale, Rod McDonald, Scott Wagstaff, Anthony Hartigan, Tom Soares (Liam Trotter), Mitch Pinnock, Tommy Wood, Joe Pigott (Andy Barcham).
Pic credit: Matt Redman, Pro Sports Images.