AFC Wimbledon were knocked out of the London Senior Cup today after a penalty shoot-out at the Cherry Red Records Stadium.
The Dons had appeared to be heading into the next round after an impressive second-half turnaround with Finlay Macnab putting his side 2-1 up. However, Brentford B hit back with a late equaliser four minutes from time, before winning it 5-4 on penalties. That scenario was harsh on a Wimbledon side, managed by Mark Robinson, that had played so well during an impressive second-half. A real positive on the day was that Paul Kalambayi continued on his path towards a first-team return by producing a composed display at the back, before being substituted after an hour.
Wimbledon’s starting 11 included five first-teamers as Kalambayi, Nathan Trott, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Julien Lamy, and Adam Roscrow were all handed game-time. The rest of the team consisted of Under-18s and first year professionals. Kalambayi, who started his career in Brentford’s academy, captained Wimbledon, as he continued his recuperation after injury. Brentford B had beaten a Wimbledon side largely consisting of first-team players in a behind-closed-doors friendly before Christmas. The Championship club’s second string, who play matches all over Europe and are due to set out on a tour to Cyprus next week, included two players who had played for the first-team with Dru Yearwood and Jaakko Oksanen starting.
Wimbledon made a bright start and Dylan Adjei-Hersey had the ball in the back of the net inside four minutes, but it was ruled out for offside. Roscrow then showed good movement to make space for a shot from outside the area, but his effort was well over the crossbar. Lamy also showed promise early on, beating two men before striking a shot that was too close to Brentford keeper Nathan Shepperd. As so often in county cup competitions this season, Huseyin Biler showed impressive energy and no shortage of skill on the right hand side.
As the first-half progressed, Brentford started to take a grip on this game by putting together fine passing moves. Chances followed for the visitors, firstly when Yearwood shot wide from just inside the area. Wimbledon’s Under-18 defender Isaac Ogundere showed good awareness to make a vital clearance at the back post to deny Brentford the opener. Trott then provided a good demonstration of his goalkeeping qualities with an impressive close-range save to stop Pressley making the breakthrough. However, there was no denying Brentford in the 28th minute. Finlay Macnab was dispossessed just outside the area and Brentford took full advantage with Pressley striking a shot that Trott did well to get a hand on, but it was too powerful to keep out of the net.
Wimbledon responded well to the setback of falling behind and it was almost 1-1 in the 36th minute. Biler again showed good skill on the right to beat his marker, before sending over a good cross to pick-out Kalambayi. The defender, who was a forward in his Brentford days, showed good control to set-up the shooting chance, but Nathan Shepperd got down well to save. The first-half ended with Brentford still 1-0 up after a well-contested 45 minutes.
The second-half started with Brentford threatening to extend the advantage, but Biler showed his awareness at the other end by clearing the ball from close to his own goal-line. Wimbledon came so close to an equaliser through Macnab, who struck a superb shot that deserved a goal, but Shepperd had other ideas and made a fantastic save. A move of real quality involving Isaac Ogundere and Biler on the right side then set-up Lamy, but his shot flashed over the crossbar.
It had been an encouraging start to the second-half from Wimbledon, but Brentford had managed to hold out as we approached the hour mark. The Dons made a notable double change at this stage with Paul Kalambayi and Adam Roscrow withdrawn after increasing their match fitness levels. Kwaku Frimpong and Zach Robinson, two promising talents from our Under-18s, entered the fray. It didn’t take long for Robinson to make an impression as he showed good hold-up play in attack, before he bagged the all-important equaliser. After showing impressive touch to control Trott’s long kick, Robinson was brought down in the penalty area. There was no hesitation from Robinson in accepting the responsibility from 12 yards and he converted in style with a powerful shot into the roof of the net.
There was no let-up from Wimbledon after the equaliser and a deserved second goal followed for the hosts. Guinness-Walker sent over a lovely cross from the left that picked out Macnab and his well directed header had just enough on it to beat Shepperd. It appeared to be all over when Macnab found the back of the net with another fine header, but the flag was up for offside. That turned out to be vital as Brentford equalised with four minutes remaining, Pressley netting his second at the near post after getting on the end of a cross.
That meant a penalty shoot-out and Brentford just edged it 5-4. Christian Tue Jensen, Jaako Oksanen, Dom Thompson, Aaron Pressley, and Dru Yearwood scored for the Bees. Finlay Macnab, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Huseyin Biler, and Isaac Olaniyan all scored for Wimbledon, but Zach Robinson fired his spot-kick over from 12 yards. It was unfortunate that this proved decisive as Robinson's second-half introduction had sparked Wimbledon's fightback, but he had certainly shown enough to suggest he can have a bright future.
AFC Wimbledon: Nathan Trott, Isacc Ogundere, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Jack Madelin, Jack Currie, Paul Kalambayi (Kwaku Frimpong), Huseyin Biler, Dylan Adjei-Hersey (Isaac Olaniyan), Julien Lamy, Adam Roscrow (Zach Robinson), Finlay Macnab.
Pic credit: Paul Dennis, obfcp.co.uk