Under-18s manager Mark Robinson was pleased with the response of his players after they bounced back from a heavy defeat by drawing against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Following a 5-1 defeat on the previous Saturday against Peterborough, Mark (pictured) kept the young Dons ticking over by arranging an away friendly against Palace and the reaction was exactly what he wanted.
“We were not good enough on the previous Saturday, so you are obviously looking for a reaction,” said Mark. “You want to see if the players have taken on board information during the week, as well as reflecting honestly on what went wrong, in order to put things right themselves. In the first 15 minutes we must have won every individual battle on the pitch and that laid the foundation for what was a very good and exciting performance against a full-strength Palace side. The first half was very good.
"In the second-half we dipped for 15 minutes, but we got ourselves back on track and got hold of the ball again, though we lacked a bit of quality in the final third. We all want the players to be exciting to watch and express themselves, but the very best sides are fantastic off the ball. They need to remember that as it's not only the difference between them winning and losing, it’s the difference between them having any chance of a career or not.
“Next Saturday the lads are away to Luton. To stand a chance of finishing top half of the Merit League they have to win. They have asked it to be their second completely player-led game this season. That shows excellent commitment to their personal development, so I am excited to see what the outcomes will be."
The young Dons started on the front foot against Palace. Left-back Paul Osew was an early threat, combining with David Fisher down the left hand side. Osew launched a long throw into the penalty area and Zach Robinson’s flick-on was met just too late by Ayoub Assal, allowing the keeper to smother his shot. A similar situation arose in the eighth minute and the final touch just eluded the Dons. Midway through the first-half Robinson pounced on a loose pass and showed good pace to go through, but his shot was well saved. Robinson also had a shot cleared off the line after good work by Assal.
Wimbledon continued the momentum and Osew’s fine run down the left ended with a good cut-back for Assal, but his effort was saved. Though Palace came into it for a spell before half-time, their threat was well dealt with by Jack Madelin and the towering Reuben Collins, who was returning after eight weeks out.
Though the second-half started very evenly, the excellent Collins just failed to convert a corner from Finlay Macnab. At the other end, Palace threatened with a shot against the upright, as the hosts attempted to capitalise on their second-half improvement. However, Wimbledon ended the match strongly with Jack Rudoni getting a grip on midfield. Bobby Mills had a shot well saved and from the subsequent corner Mills shot into the side netting. In the 75th minute an exquisite 50-yard ball by the impressive Huseyin Bilal found Fisher, who shot narrowly wide. Wimbledon were just unable to find the killer touch, but it ended in a creditable draw with Palace also unable to break the deadlock.
Click on the link below for match highlights.