AFC Wimbledon’s young talents missed out on a place in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup after hosts Sheffield United came from behind to earn victory at Bramall Lane.
A strike from Dylan Adjei-Hersey just before the hour put Wimbledon in control, but a second goal proved elusive and a double from United substitute Daniel Jebbison secured a 2-1 victory and a tie in the next round against Fulham. Despite the young Dons acquitting themselves well, there was a sense of frustration about how this game ended up going against them. There was certainly no gap in quality between a Premier League club’s academy team and Wimbledon’s with the visitors having enough chances to have scored an all-important second goal.
Following an inspirational speech from manager Rob Tuvey about what it meant to represent AFC Wimbledon, the club’s youngsters showed plenty of confidence on the big stage at Bramall Lane. After surviving an early scare when the hosts failed to make the most of a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area, Wimbledon started to grow into this game. David Fisher, who had just recovered in time to make the starting 11 after shaking off a hamstring injury, started a quick break on the left and he picked out Dylan Adjei-Hersey, who was just unable to get in behind the United defence. Adjei-Hersey then showed good skill to get down the flank on the other side and Elliott Bolton pounced after his cross was only half cleared. The midfielder had no hesitation in trying his luck from 25 yards and his rasping drive flashed just wide of the target.
With our manager Glyn Hodges watching on from the stands at Sheffield United, where he was a favourite in his playing days, Wimbledon offered good threat in attack. Fisher, who looked very dangerous with his pace down the left, showed good movement to find space in behind, but no one was able to get on the end of his cut-back. At the other end, Zak Brunt cracked a free-kick over the crossbar. United attempted to pile on the pressure by forcing a flurry of corners, the hosts having six flag-kicks in the first 25 minutes, but they were unable to penetrate a well-drilled Dons defence.
As we progressed towards the half hour mark, there had been a clear pattern with United having the majority of possession, but Wimbledon offering more incisive play on the attack. A fine example of that came through a flowing move involving captain Archie Procter and Bolton, who picked out Fisher, but his shot was well saved by United keeper Sam Kelly. At the other end, a brilliant tackle by all-action Wimbledon right-back Huseyin Biler stopped Brunt from going through on goal.
After soaking up more United pressure, Wimbledon had another good chance 10 minutes before the break when a long ball out of defence sent Fisher racing through on goal, but his well struck shot was once again saved by Sam Kelly. There had certainly been plenty of good football to enthuse about from a Wimbledon perspective with Fisher having looked most likely to break the deadlock in the first-half. It was all to play for in the second-half with a fourth round place at stake as neither side had been able to break the deadlock in the first-half.
United started the second-half on the front foot and Dons keeper Matthew Cox was forced into a save when he stayed alert to deny Leo Gaxha, who had latched onto a cross by Jake Kelly. Wimbledon initially struggled to get any attacking momentum going in the second-half as United forced the visitors back. Substitute Andre Brooks struck a volley that flashed over the crossbar, but Matthew Cox did not seem worried by the shot.
Despite the United pressure, Wimbledon had been fairly comfortable in soaking it up with the back-line of Huseyin Biler, Archie Procter, Jack Madelin, and Issac Ogundere holding firm. That allowed The Dons to score a fine breakaway goal in the 59th minute. Fisher, who had been lively all night, picked out Zach Robinson, who showed lovely skill to beat his marker and get a shot in that was well saved by Sam Kelly, but Adjei-Hersey slotted home the rebound. The goal rewarded the travelling Dons that had made the long trip on a Tuesday night, as they saluted a fine Wimbledon goal. It was almost two shortly afterwards. Biler, who had been superb in the last round at Hanworth Villa, sent over a lovely cross from the right that picked out Robinson, but his looping header was just wide.
As we reached the midway point of the first-half, Wimbledon had taken a firm grip on this match with the forwards having grown in confidence. That was shown by a lovely run by Robinson, who threatened to do it all himself, but his shot was too close to Sam Kelly. Issac Olaniyan also tried his luck with a free-kick that was just off target. Considering the way Wimbledon had taken charge in the second-half, it was something of a surprise when United earned the equaliser in the 69th minute. A quick break down the United right caught Wimbledon out and Brunt delivered a cross that picked out Daniel Jebbison, whose volley just had enough on it to beat Cox.
Rob Tuvey made his first substitution with Kwaku Frimpong replacing Fisher, who had produced a tireless shift up front. With Wimbledon pushing for a winner, United exposed the gaps at the back with a quick break that earned the lead in the 80th minute. A ball into the final third meant that United had a two versus one situation and a pass by Andre Brooks put Jebbison through on goal again, the substitute finishing emphatically to put United in front. Wimbledon responded with a spell of pressure and it almost resulted in a quick-fire equaliser. Robinson found space in the area, before striking a shot that Sam Kelly just managed to save. United remained resilient in defence during the latter stages and there was no way back for our young Dons, who will be aiming to bounce back in the league and help the club to make progress in both the London Senior Cup and Surrey Senior Cup competitions.
AFC Wimbledon: Matthew Cox, Jack Madelin, Archie Procter, Dylan Adjei-Hersey, Olukayode Osu (Troy Chiabi), Zachary Robinson, David Fisher (Kwaku Frimpong), Issac Olaniyan (Josh Hallard), Huseyin Biler, Elliott Bolton, Isaac Ogundere.