AFC Wimbledon produced a display full of spirit and resilience to secure a place in the second round of the FA Youth Cup tonight.
A first-half goal by Julian Sarmiento-Ramirez proved to be the difference in a 2-1 victory for Wimbledon versus Oxford, but it was a real team performance that earned a place in the next round, as the Dons had to dig deep in the second-half. Wimbledon headed into this match as underdogs with Oxford United among the pacesetters in the Football League Youth Alliance South East and Rob Tuvey’s side having had a difficult start to the season. However, Wimbledon had made a habit of upsetting the odds in this competition, reaching the last-16 on two occasions in recent seasons.
In a match played at Thame United, Oxford made the brighter start with Wimbledon forced to defend resiliently in front of England Under-17 international keeper Matthew Cox, who had been a part of the Dons side narrowly defeated by Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in last season’s FA Youth Cup. Seeking to start another cup run, Wimbledon took the lead with a goal that came completely out of nothing in the 10th minute. Pouncing on a short back pass, Dons striker Obed Yeboah chased the ball down and he was rewarded when Oxford keeper Eddie Brearey’s attempted clearance rebounded off him and into the empty net.
The lead didn’t last long as Oxford equalised in the 20th minute. It was a disappointing goal to concede as it came from a corner, the ball flicked on at the near post and Adam Smith got there first to head home. It was a very even first half hour, as the two sides battled for supremacy. Kwaku Frimpong provided the energy in midfield that he had talked about as a key attribute in the build-up and he also swung in a superb free-kick from the right that no one was quite able to get on the end of. Tall Dons striker Aron Sasu also showed lovely skill to beat two challenges in the box and he appeared to be impeded, but he stayed on his feet, and no penalty was forthcoming.
As we approached the latter stages of the first-half, Wimbledon were showing real signs of taking control of this match. Troy Chiabi was showing good support for the front two, as the Dons started to commit more players forward, and the lead was restored in the 39th minute. Talented attacker Julian Sarmiento-Ramirez had already shown glimpses of his quality on the ball, and he struck an impressive individual effort. Cutting in from the right side, Sarmiento-Ramirez let fly with a well-struck shot from 30 yards that caught out Oxford keeper Brearey, who appeared to be taken by surprise as it found the bottom corner. The half-time whistle shrilled with Wimbledon 2-1 up and full value for the lead.
As the second-half progressed, Wimbledon came under increasing pressure, forced to defend in numbers. Captain Isaac Ogundere and Luke Jenkins defended valiantly to keep Oxford out and Matt Cox made a vital contribution by taking crosses with real assurance. Though Oxford had enjoyed the majority of possession in the second-half, a sign of Wimbledon's resilience was that their opponents hadn't created a clear-cut chance as we approached the 70th minute mark. Frimpong, who had certainly put himself about in the centre of the park, went down injured, but he showed real determination to get back into the action after receiving treatment. The Dons were certainly going to need such commitment to the cause to earn a place in the next round as Oxford continued to bang on the door.
There was a real opportunity to clinch victory when Sarmiento-Ramirez curled in a lovely cross from the right that picked out substitute David Kawa, but he headed just wide of the target. As Oxford piled forward, opportunities on the break started to open up for Wimbledon with Sarmiento-Ramirez looking to make something happen in attack. Ogundere cut out a potential Oxford breakaway and then went on a powerful run that ended with Sarmiento-Ramirez having a shot deflected over the crossbar. Though a third goal for Wimbledon failed to materialise, resilient defending meant that two was enough as Oxford were denied an equaliser during six minutes of injury-time. Roll on the next round and more of the same from the young Dons.
AFC Wimbledon: Matt Cox, Troy Chiabi, Luke Jenkins, Julian Sarmiento-Ramirez, Kwaku Frimpong, Isaac Ogundere, Obed Yeboah (David Kawa), Abdi Alli, Josh Hallard, Aron Sasu (Quaine Bartley), Ethan Sutcliffe.
Pic credit: Steve Edmunds.