Paul Kalambayi came through 45 minutes of our latest Central League Cup group match, as a young Wimbledon team were just edged out by a more senior Milton Keynes Dons side.
It was the centre back's first game back, having recovered from a ligament injury he sustained in training back in December.
Tommy Wood and substitute Troy Chiabi scored in a 3-2 defeat at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, against a side that included six first-team players.
Mark Robinson felt it was an encouraging display. “Obviously, you never want to lose any football match, but when you look at the side they had out you have to take the positives. The fact is we caused them lots of problems and created more than enough chances to win the game. The little things we came unstuck with were just down to young players learning the finer points about the game.”
There was an early setback for Wimbledon, as the visitors struck in the first minute. Kieran Agard was played in and he made the most of space inside the penalty area by side-footing past Matthew Cox. After withstanding some pressure, Dylan Adjei-Hersey went on a surging run, beating several players to earn a corner. Isaac Ogundere headed narrowly wide from Finlay Macnab's subsequent flag-kick.
Kalambayi made an early entry into the referee's book when he committed a foul and was shown the yellow card in the 13th minute. Tommy Wood had the ball in the net four minutes later after a good move, but it was ruled out due to offside. This was the catalyst though for more Wimbledon pressure, as another effort just cleared the visitors’ crossbar and a further chance was put behind for a corner to Mark Robinson's side. At the other end, Jack Currie did well to halt a well-worked move into the box. Shortly afterwards, in the 28th minute, Wimbledon were back on level terms. Macnab did very well to keep possession inside the area and he set-up Tommy Wood to level the scores.
Wimbledon were only back on level terms for just six minutes. The opposition created a chance for Hiram Boateng to slot past Cox from close in and another effort minutes later was chalked off for offside. With half-time looming, Cox saved well by blocking with his legs to deny the visitors a third. Adjei-Hersey had a great opportunity to level just before the break, but he fired Huseyin Biler's cross into the keeper from close range.
Wimbledon switched formation from 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 at the start of the second half with young forward Troy Chiabi coming on for Kalambayi. Wood took on the responsibility of captaincy.
The lively Huseyin Biler earned Wimbledon a free kick four minutes after the restart and Macnab again worked the keeper, before Olanyian had a close range shot blocked. It was the visitors who scored again though when Boateng netted his second against the run of play. Wimbledon responded well though three minutes later when Wood slid the ball across goal for Chiabi to reduce the deficit to 3-2. The young Dons weren't done yet though. Former Hanworth Villa youth captain Teo Kurtaran replaced Kwaku Frimpong for the last 10 minutes and Wimbledon continued to push for a third, Wood leading the charge. With Jack Madelin keeping the door closed at the other end, Wimbledon pushed on for a late equaliser, but it was not to be as the visitors held on for the points.
AFC Wimbledon: Matthew Cox, Paul Kalambayi (Troy Chiabi), Jack Madelin, Huseyin Biler, Isaac Ogundere, Jack Currie, Kwaku Frimpong (Teo Kurtaran), Finlay Macnab, Isaac Olanyian, Tommy Wood, Dylan Adjei-Hersey.
Pic credit: Carlo Rossi.