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Dons exit cup on penalties after Assal's fine opener

Wimbledon edged out on spot-kicks

7 January 2020

Wimbledon tonight bowed out of the Surrey Senior Cup at South Park after a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

Ayoub Assal (pictured) had given Wimbledon the lead just after the hour with a fine goal, but South Park equalised through Hayden Skerry. Following the 1-1 draw, it was straight to penalties and BetVictor Isthmian South Central Division side South Park won the shoot-out 5-4 in sudden death. With Glyn Hodges watching on from the sidelines, Mark Robinson’s young side had played very well in spells, without finding the goals to match their fine approach play.

Wimbledon selected a young side for this Surrey Senior Cup tie at South Park and this was summed up by the fact that 21-year-old Kyron Stabana was the oldest player in the team. It was a proud night for academy graduate Archie Procter, who captained Wimbledon in his first season as a professional. The hosts also fielded a young team with former Wimbledon scholar Great Nii Okai Evans up front.

Wimbledon started the game well with Huseyin Biler, who was so impressive in the last round against Molesey, once again offering threat with his bold runs down the left. Ossama Ashley, who is making his way back from a serious injury, showed his quality on the other flank, before sending over a cross that just eluded Dylan Adjei-Hersey’s outstretched boot at the far post. Biler tested Craig Bradshaw for the first time in the 20th minute when he cut inside and unleashed a curling effort that the South Park keeper did well to save.

As we approached the half hour mark, Wimbledon continued to dominate. Ayoub Assal fired over the crossbar, before Adjei-Hersey showed lovely skill to beat his marker, but his cross to the near post was cut out. A quick Dons break could have resulted in the opening goal when Adjei-Hersey latched onto a through ball and rounded Bradshaw, but South Park got defenders back and the young forward’s cut-back was cleared.

Chances were rare during the rest of the first-half as South Park defended resolutely and Wimbledon struggled to break them down. Biler continued to offer a cutting edge and he produced another lovely run inside, before trying his luck with a shot that flashed over the crossbar. The first-half ended with the score at 0-0, Wimbledon having dominated possession without being able to make it count. The hosts had offered stern resistance to defy Wimbledon pressure in the first 45 minutes. Though the visitors had played well in spells with good approach play, the final ball or that finishing touch had just been lacking.

It was an end-to-end start to the second-half with both teams attempting to break the deadlock. Evans threatened to go clean through on the Wimbledon goal, but Procter showed good defensive qualities to track him back and get in a vital tackle. At the other end, Adjei-Hersey cut inside from the right and struck a decent effort that fizzed wide of the target. South Park started to come into it more at the start of the second-half and captain Procter was required to show his leadership skills at the back, the young defender reading the game well to repel attacks from the hosts.

Just when South Park had started to come into it, Wimbledon struck the opener and it was a goal worth waiting for. Isaac Ogundere picked out Assal on the left and he showed good skill to cut inside his marker, before unleashing a fierce drive that had enough power on it to beat South Park keeper Bradshaw. Mark Robinson decided to make his first substitution shortly afterwards with Isaac Olaniyan entering the fray for KJ Osu. South Park responded to falling behind by testing Wimbledon with the visitors forced to defend resolutely. There was a good opportunity for South Park when they earned a free-kick just outside the area, but Aihn War Tran-West’s shot was over the crossbar. Then Bert White, who had been previously untested, stayed alert to hold onto an angled drive by South Park left-back Leon Moore.

With 15 minutes remaining, Wimbledon came close to sealing victory through Ayoub’s creativity. The attacking midfielder, who had a very effective second-half, powered down the right and sent over a cross that came tantalisingly close to picking out Adjei-Hersey, who had found space in the box. However, South Park were celebrating an equaliser in the 78th minute when a cross was played into the Wimbledon box and substitute Hayden Skerry scored with a well placed header into the bottom corner. Wimbledon pressed for the winner in the final minutes and two decent chances followed in injury-time. First, a free-kick by Jack Currie was delivered into the box and Adjei-Hersey just failed to get on the end of it, before Ashley was just denied by Bradshaw after a well-worked move. Ashley, who had an impressive second-half, also burst through on goal in added time, but his shot was well saved by Bradshaw.

With neither side able to find a winner, penalties was the outcome and it was South Park that earned victory. The hosts won it 5-4 on sudden death with Procter and Adjei-Hersey both having their penalties saved, Huseyin Biler, Ossama Ashley, Ayoub Assal, and Isaac Olaniyan with the successful conversions for Wimbledon. It was a harsh way for Wimbledon to exit the competition after another promising performance from the club’s youngsters.

AFC Wimbledon: Bert White, Kyron Stabana (Jack Currie), KJ Osu (Isaac Olaniyan), Isaac Ogundere, Archie Procter, Dylan Adjei-Hersey, Huseyin Biler, Ossama Ashley, David Fisher (Troy Chiabi), Ayoub Assal, Jamil Awoyejo.

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