An impressive unbeaten run in the Merit League came to an end on Saturday for our Under-18s with Southend United just edging the verdict.
The young Dons failed to build on an equaliser from Ayoub Assal with visitors Southend triumphing 2-1 to put a dent in Wimbledon’s title bid.
Despite losing captain Archie Proctor in the warm-up, Wimbledon started brightly and Assal was just denied by the keeper after excellent work by David Fisher. Assal and Zach Robinson were also thwarted in one-on-one situations with the keeper, as plenty of chances went begging. At the other end, Under-16s keeper Matt Cox watched a couple of efforts go over his crossbar, before Bobby Unwin opened the scoring from a free-kick. Cox then made a good save to stop Southend from doubling the advantage.
The second-half started with Southend on the front foot, but a pass by the outstanding Elliott Bolton was not dealt with by the Southend defence and Assal finished expertly over the keeper. The Dons were now back doing all the attacking and started to create excellent situations and chances. However, Wimbledon paid the price for making the wrong decisions and snatching at their chances. Following slack defending, Freddy Eastwood, son of Southend’s former striker of the same name, finished clinically from 12 yards to win it.
Following the defeat, manager Mark Robinson said: “When you have been on an excellent run, it’s always going to be disappointing when it comes to an end. However, it is how it comes to an end that is important. It was not a sub-standard or weak performance. We dominated for long spells and created enough clear chances to win the game. We fell short on our decision-making in the final third and some of our finishing looked a bit rushed and anxious. They are learning though and if they remain hungry to learn that will come. It was great to get Under-16 Dylan Hersey back with us after his long injury. He equipped himself very well and it won't be long before he is firing on all cylinders.
“We also gave a debut to U16 keeper Matt Cox, who was excellent. He will be disappointed with their first goal, but it's all part of his education. Fortunately for the lads the rest of the results went their way. If they want to achieve their team goal of winning the league, it's still on, if they win their remaining two games. As coaches, we just want them to keep performing to a high level and work every day to become better players. If I have to talk to any of them about the desire to win games of football they may as well pack it in now.”
An interview with Elliott Bolton and academy coach Rob Tuvey can be viewed by clicking on the link below.
Highlights can be viewed below, but please note that Wimbledon’s goal is missing due to technical difficulties.