An AFC Wimbledon XI succumbed to a narrow defeat at Hanwell Town on Saturday after a promising first-half that included goals from Ayoub Assal and Tommy Wood.
Wimbledon’s young side, consisting of Under-18s, plus Egli Kaja, Paul Osew, and Wood, marched into a 2-1 lead before the break, but Hanwell scored twice in two second-half minutes to triumph 3-2.
Hanwell’s first-team, who are preparing for the BetVictor Isthmian League South Central Division, were forced to defend early on against a Wimbledon side with plenty of attacking intent. There was a cutting edge to match it when David Fisher, who has had an impressive pre-season so far, skipped around his marker and cut the ball back for Assal. There was no mistake from midfielder Assal (pictured) as he slotted home emphatically from eight yards. However, Hanwell restored parity when a clearance from Jack Madelin lacked height and it rebounded favourably for the hosts to equalise.
What followed was a very even first-half. Wimbledon defended with resilience, but offered a threat at the other end with Wood leading the line well, Kaja and Fisher causing problems on the flanks, and Assal’s skill making things happen. Both sides had chances, but on 36 minutes it was 2-1 to Wimbledon when Kaja’s mazy run beat three players and his attempted shot was met by Wood, who guided it home.
Kaja was replaced at half-time by Julian Sarmiento-Ramirez. Though Wimbledon dealt well with Hanwell pressure from set-pieces at the start of the second-half, thanks to good defending from Archie Procter and Bert White’s goalkeeping, it was 2-2 in the 70th minute. White could do nothing about a stunning 25-yard free-kick that left him with no chance. It got worse for Wimbledon two minutes later when the young Dons failed to properly deal with a corner for the first time. Though Assal had an effort saved with 10 minutes left and Ramirez shot wide near the end, Hanwell held on for victory.
Speaking after the match, Mark Robinson said: “Following the game against Corinthian Casuals, it was another excellent test for the lads. For a youth team, we competed very well physically. However, when you play against a men’s team you have to do everything you can so that it’s not a physical battle. We did that very well for the opening goal and on a few occasions we moved the ball quickly and to good effect. Far too often though, particularly as the game wore on, we took too many touches and got caught in possession, which gave us far too much work to do defensively.
“It’s all great learning for these young lads though. Exposing them to men’s football and getting to see the quality of players at this level should give them a grounding and an honest perception of what they need to do if they want professional careers. I was very pleased with the attitude of the two older lads Tommy Wood and Egli Kaja. They have been completely professional in training and in their approach to everything. Again, the younger lads need to look at the examples that they set. I wish to thank Hanwell Town for their hospitality. They were first class and we wish them all the best for a great season ahead.”
Meanwhile, another AFC Wimbledon XI, consisting of Under-18s, were beaten 4-0 at Staines Town on Saturday.