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Match Reports

Luke leads the way as youthful Dons earn victory

Academy youngsters see Wimbledon over the line against resolute Met Police

20 July 2021

Luke McCormick again caught the eye, but it was the collective efforts of Wimbledon's Academy youngsters that deserved the plaudits for our first win of pre-season.

Zach Robinson (pictured) converted from the spot with just nine minutes remaining against a resolute Metropolitan Police side, as Rob Tuvey gave three 16 year-olds their first taste of senior football.

McCormick was the only one of our new additions to figure in a strong starting eleven, with the plan to give them an hour. Ethan Chislett and Ayoub Assal, two players who previously played for Met Police, also figured. Ben Heneghan initially wore the captain's armband.

Conditions were ideal after a short rain shower before kick-off killed off the rising humidity from the afternoon.

Cheye Alexander earned the first corner after just two minutes, which was played short between McCormick and Anthony Hartigan and resulted in a free-kick for the hosts. Five minutes later, Nik Tzanev got his first touch when he came out of goal to claim the ball.

Assal then started to settle into the game, initially bursting clear on the wing having been set through on goal. McCormick then pinged the ball off the crossbar from a free kick after sixteen minutes and then slipped the ball just wide of the upright a minute later. Down the other end, Heneghan had to make a vital challenge to deny the Southern League side an opener.

McCormick then set Assal through with the keeper forced to dive at his feet and put the ball behind for a Dons corner. Following Saturday's performance, it was a further sign of a promising understanding developing between the two. Just after the half hour mark, McCormick glanced a header from a Cheye Alexander cross that the keeper tipped over for a corner.

A deflected Hartigan shot was saved as Wimbledon increased the pressure on a resolute Met Police defence. It remained goaless at the break, but McCormick in particular was the main threat as he started to run the show again for the Dons in front of a crowd of 450.

Assal had an early chance at the start of the second half with the keeper forced to claim at his feet. Alexander then crossed and the Met Police keeper punched clear, ahead of Ollie Palmer. Wimbledon pressure continued to build. Heneghan dropped the ball into the path of Assal, but Chislett's effort deflected behind from close range for a corner.

As the game opened up the hosts broke forward and Tzanev was forced into action to claim the ball inside his area in the 55th minute. With the game still goalless, Met Police continued to create opportunities of their own. Tzanev was beaten in the 59th minute, with an effort coming off the post.

Rob Tuvey then made eight changes on the hour, with just Tzanev, Jack Currie and Elliott Bolton remaining from the starting line-up. Half an hour was given to several of our promising Academy youngsters, including Ollie Downs and Kai Jennings - a night in their young lives that they'll never forget. With 20 minutes to go, Harry Griffiths then replaced Tzanev in goal.

Currie had inherited the armband from centre back partner Heneghan, while Zach Robinson had come on as the main threat up front. When fellow substitute Remi Onabanjo was fouled just inside the area, Robinson finally broke the deadlock in the 81st minute with a powerful, low spot kick. With seven minutes left, youngster Nana Kuffour replaced a weary Currie. Young Reuben Mason then took over the captaincy and steered a side playing with no fear to the finishing line. At the final whistle a very young Wimbledon side deserved great credit for their performances against more experienced opposition.

AFC Wimbledon: Tzanev, Osew, Currie, Heneghan, Alexander, Bolton, Hartigan, Chislett, McCormick, Palmer and Assal. 

Substitutes (all used in the second half): Griffiths (GK), Bangura, Lahan, Mason, Kuffour, Onabanjo, Jennings, Bendle (trialist), Adjei-Hersey, Downs, Obianigwe and Robinson. 

Pic credit: Andy Nunn. 


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