Ayoub Assal hit a second-half double to help AFC Wimbledon to an impressive Central League Cup group victory at Southend United.
A Dons squad consisting of Under-18s, except for Kwesi Appiah, earned a 5-1 win in yesterday’s Under-23 fixture with Assal (pictured) striking twice late on. Southend’s side also contained scholars and young professionals, but Michael Klass and Lewis Gard did add first-team experience.
Following a far from ideal preparation that involved the kick-off being delayed 45 minutes as the Wimbledon coach was stuck in traffic, O’Shane Stewart put Southend ahead in the 17th minute with a superb 25-yard strike. Appiah came close to a first-half goal when he shot against the crossbar after fine play by Julian Sarmiento-Ramirez had set him up. However, it was 1-1 in the 36th minute when Sarmiento-Ramirez found KJ Osu in space and his cross was converted at the back post by Dylan Adjei Hersey.
There was a double change for Wimbledon at half-time with Sarmiento-Ramirez and Appiah replaced by Isaac Olaniyan and Troy Chiabi. The Dons marched into the lead in the 53rd minute through a fine individual goal by Huseyin Biler, who cut inside from the left and struck a powerful drive into the top corner.
There was no let-up from Wimbledon and it was 3-1 in the 68th minute when a quick break ended with Chiabi finishing off clinically. The fourth goal arrived 14 minutes from time with Olaniyan as the instigator. The young forward pressed from a Southend goal kick to win the ball, before squaring the ball for Assal, who tucked it away. There was still time for a fifth goal to round off a fine afternoon for Wimbledon. It came with 11 minutes to play when Adjei-Hersey beat three players, before teeing up Assal and he made no mistake.
Speaking after the game, Rob Tuvey said: “The preparations were not ideal, but the boys showed a professional attitude and that’s something we really work on with all age groups. In the first-half the boys showed that they could adapt to the conditions well and they withstood Southend pressure, as well as playing good football and carrying an attacking threat.
“In the second-half we asked the boys to be creative and play between the lines. The boys were superb on the day, coming on the back of Saturday’s cup win, and they showed real confidence in their attacking play. It was great to see Kwesi back and his leadership on the day was fantastic. It was something the boys can learn from. Kwesi was superb with the boys and he led them well using his experience.”