AFC Wimbledon bowed out of the FA Youth Cup tonight after almost upsetting the odds against Tottenham Hotspur's youngsters at Plough Lane.
The 3-0 final score-line was certainly harsh on Wimbledon, Spurs making the most of breakaway opportunities during extra-time as the young Dons committed more players forward in search of a way back into the match. Following the win against Burnley, this display was another example of the rich promise shown by Wimbledon's rising talents with several of them showing potential to be a part of the club's future.
Manager James Oliver-Pearce made one enforced change from the side that defeated Burnley in the last round. With Josh Hallard suffering an injury during preparations for this match, he was replaced at left-back by 16-year-old Remi Onabanjo, who had to adjust to the new position as he is more accustomed to playing left-back. Tottenham’s side included three players that had made their first-team debuts with Nile John, Dane Scarlett, and Alfie Devine having been selected by Jose Mourinho in the past year.
Wimbledon wasted no time showing attacking tendencies. Just a few minutes in and Obed Yeboah did well to get in a shot, stretching well to get there before the Spurs defence, but his effort was deflected just wide. Though Spurs unsurprisingly had more of the possession in the early exchanges, Wimbledon had the better attacking moments in the first half an hour. Troy Chiabi, who was particularly lively in the first-half, showed good movement and vision to pick out Yeboah in space on the left, but Spurs got enough defenders back to stop him. At the other end, Wimbledon defended very well, restricting Spurs to very little in terms of meaningful attacks.
The Dons came so close to breaking the deadlock in the 34th minute when Dylan Adjei-Hersey delivered a lovely corner from the left that Isaac Ogundere rose highest to meet at the near post, but his header flashed just wide of the far post. That appeared to wake the visitors up as they finally started to offer some threat. Romaine Mundle had the best effort yet for Spurs in the 36th minute when he struck a shot that had Matthew Cox stretching to his right, but the ball just missed the near post. At this stage, Wimbledon needed to show the resilience that served them so well in the victory versus Burnley in the last round. Captain Ogundere showed his qualities at the other end by making a vital last-ditch tackle to stop Spurs getting through. Ethan Sutcliffe was also required to show good defensive awareness, the rangy centre-back also making a good interception. Remi Onabanjo and Ben Mason, who was so impressive in the last round versus Burnley, filled the full-back positions effectively, stopping Spurs from getting down the flanks.
As we approached half-time, Matthew Cox was called into action for the first time when he reacted well to stop Roshaun Mathurin from opening the scoring. However, the Dons had maintained a good defensive shape throughout the first-half and it was certainly no surprise that the score was level at half-time. Indeed, Wimbledon’s youngsters had enjoyed good attacking spells themselves and deserved to be at least level at the break.
The second-half started with Spurs attempting to get in behind Wimbledon, but one impressive interception by Onabanjo in the left-back position earned applause from his team-mates and the coaching staff. Wimbledon had the ball in the back of the net after nine minutes of the second-half when Troy Chiabi fired home from close-range after Adjei-Hersey's fierce shot had been saved, but the flag was up for offside. It appeared to be a tight call, and replays suggested it was onside. James Oliver-Pearce made his first change in the 55th minute with Aron Sasu replacing Obed Yeboah. There was a notable change for Wimbledon on the hour with Isaac Olaniyan making his return after injury in place of Quaine Bartley.
As the second-half progressed, Spurs started to gain a greater share of possession, but Wimbledon remained defiant. One lung-bursting run by Ben Mason to cut out a Spurs attack summed up the spirit and desire shown by Wimbledon on the night. Wimbledon’s back four, well protected by the midfield endeavours of Kwaku Frimpong and Abdi Ali, battled defiantly to repel attacks from the visitors. Onabanjo even showed ambition to win it himself when he powered down the left flank, before trying his luck from distance, but his shot was over the crossbar.
Wimbledon had certainly earned extra-time and the young Dons came so close to taking the lead in the 96th minute. Ben Mason sent over a superb cross from the right that Dylan Adjei-Hersey met with a fine header, but his effort was well saved by Spurs keeper Thimothee Lo-Tutala. That turned out to be crucial as Spurs took the lead just a couple of minutes later. Romaine Mundle sent over a free-kick from the right that was well controlled by Spurs substitute Jamie Donley and he fired home a brilliant effort. During the second period of extra-time Wimbledon continued to go for it, but that left gaps at the back for Spurs to expose on the break. Mundle made the most of a fine ball by Dondle and he fired home emphatically to double the advantage. A third goal came from Dondle in the final minutes with Wimbledon caught out on the break again. Nevertheless, the late goal failed to take the shine off a gallant Dons display that certainly augers well for the future.
AFC Wimbledon: Matthew Cox, Remi Onabanjo, Troy Chiabi, Kwaku Frimpong, Isaac Ogundere, Ben Mason, Abdi Ali, Ethan Sutcliffe, Quaine Bartley, Obed Yeboah, Dylan Adjei-Hersey.
Subs used: Aron Sasu, Isaac Olaniyan, Paris Lock, Ibrahim Bangura.
Pic credit: Stuart Tree.