AFC Wimbledon were eliminated from the London Senior Cup tonight with a defeat on penalties by Haringey Borough.
A young Wimbledon side with a sprinkling of first-team experience - George Marsh, Ethan Chislett, Dapo Mebude, and Aaron Pressley all started - were beaten 5-4 on spot-kicks after a 1-1 draw. Sixteen-year-old midfielder Alfie Bendle had struck a 77th minute equaliser after a fine cross by Huseyin Biler (pictured), who impressed on the night. Despite having the majority of possession, the Dons simply didn't do enough with it and Haringey rose to the challenge on the night.
Back at Coles Park for the first time since our FA Cup victory three years ago, hosts Haringey again proved to be stubborn opposition. The Isthmian Premier League Division side were only beaten 1-0 by Wimbledon at the same venue back in November 2018 with Mitch Pinnock striking a late winner.
It was a much lower profile game this time around as the previous meeting was televised live on BBC with a capacity crowd packing into the North London ground. However, this match was certainly important to our management team as they looked for positive signs that first-team players were ready to step-up for our big Emirates FA Cup tie versus Cheltenham on Saturday.
With Rob Tuvey and James Simmonds taking charge for this match, Wimbledon were aiming to make progress in a competition that we got to the final of last season. Neither side really threatened early on, but there was an audacious attempt to break the deadlock in the 19th minute. Georgios Aresti tried his luck from just inside Wimbledon’s half as he attempted to catch out Zaki Oualah, but it was over the crossbar.
Though Wimbledon spread the ball around well on the 4G pitch, it took until the 23rd minute for the Dons to create anything meaningful. Lovely play down the right by Huseyin Biler created space and he sent over a cross that picked out Zach Robinson, but he was unable to get enough of a connection on his header and the hosts were able to clear the danger.
There was a good chance for Wimbledon with half an hour gone when Haringey keeper Lamar Joseph-Johnson was only able to palm a long ball into the path of Zach Robinson, but his shot from just outside the box was over the crossbar.
As we approached half-time the Dons continued to dominate possession and chances followed. A good move ended with Ethan Chislett in space inside the area, but the angle was against him and his shot was beaten out at the near post by Joseph-Johnson. In a first-half when chances were rare, Wimbledon came closest when Aaron Pressley’s cross picked out Robinson, but his header bounced off the far post.
There was a half-time change for Wimbledon with Quaine Bartley introduced for Zach Robinson, who had shown plenty of sharpness in attack after recovering from an injury that had restricted his progress this season.
The Dons certainly had to do more to get the better of a Haringey side showing a lot of determination to take Wimbledon’s scalp. Initially, there was a good second-half response from the Dons. During a fine start to the second-half, a good pass by Biler provided Pressley with a clear sight of goal, but his shot from an acute angle was well saved by the feet of Joseph-Johnson.
With the Dons having failed to make the breakthrough, Haringey grew in confidence, and they made the breakthrough in the 61st minute. Andronicos Georgiou cut in from the right side onto his left foot, beating a couple of Wimbledon challenges, before striking a fine finish that beat Oualah with the aid of a deflection.
There was a double change for Wimbledon in the 65th minute. George Marsh was withdrawn after taking another vital step on the comeback trail after a broken foot and Ethan Chislett also came off. Under-18s Abdi Ali and Marcel Campbell were introduced in their places and they breathed new life into Wimbledon with their energy. The Dons were forced to defend again shortly afterwards and the hosts almost doubled the advantage with a shot by Alfred Bobson-Bawling striking a post. The same player also shot just wide from 10 yards out as Haringey threatened to seal victory.
The Dons equalised in the 77th minute and it was a goal that was certainly worth the wait. Huseyin Biler, who had produced a lively display on the right flank, sent over a lovely cross from the right that Alfie Bendle volleyed home superbly. Though Wimbledon piled forward in search of a winner, Haringey defended resiliently and it was onto penalties.
The subsequent spot kicks that followed were of a high standard from both sides. Huseyin Biler, Quaine Bartley, Aaron Pressley, and Zaki Oualah all scored for the Dons, but Dapo Mebude's spot-kick hit the crossbar and went over. That proved decisive as Haringey won it 5-4 with successful penalties by Roman Michael-Percil, Scott Mitchell, Adeyinka Cole, Christos Djamas, and Callum Ismail.
There will be no chance this season to clinch the London Senior Cup for a seventh time as our players ultimately failed to make their superior quality count against a resolute and determined Haringey side.
AFC Wimbledon: Zaki Oualah, George Marsh (Abdi Ali), Ethan Chislett (Marcel Campbell), Zach Robinson (Quaine Bartley), Dapo Mebude, Aaron Pressley, Huseyin Biler, Alfie Bendle, Jack Currie, Luke Jenkins, Reuben Mason.