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Match Reports

Dons suffer first Trophy defeat this season

A youthful Wimbledon team are beaten by Palace

26 October 2021

Two second-half goals condemned a very young Wimbledon side to a first defeat this season in the Papa John's Trophy.

This was far from a Wimbledon senior team taking on Palace Under-21s as Mark Robinson blooded the youngsters. A sign of Wimbledon's youthfulness on the night was that Darius Charles, Ethan Chislett, and keeper Zaki Oualah were our only players over the age of 21. A very even first-half ensued with the Dons shading it on chances created, before Palace seized the initiative to win it 2-0 with goals by Jesurun Rak-Sakyi and Rob Street.

Certainly in that first-half there were a lot of promising moments from Wimbledon. Eighteen-year-old Quaine Bartley was a formidable presence up front, holding the ball up well for his team-mates, and acting as the spark for attacks. At the other end, Luke Jenkins, praised by Robbo in the build-up for an impressive return after long-term injury, produced a creditable display for 53 minutes before departing the action. 

Mark Robinson handed Dons first-team debuts to four of our young prospects with Luke Jenkins, Bartley, Isaac Olaniyan, and Josh Hallard all in from the start. Hallard and Paul Osew were deployed on the left and right side as wing backs with the three centre backs of Dan Csoka, Darius Charles, and Luke Jenkins at the heart of defence. One of our Wembley heroes from back in 2016, Charles captained the Dons on the night in his first start in a competitive match since rejoining us in the summer.

The young Dons started brightly, and threatened to make the breakthrough in the seventh minute. Nice play by Ethan Chislett set-up Quaine Bartley, but his shot was saved by Palace keeper Joe Whitworth. 

There was better to come from Wimbledon as the first half progressed with a superb move started by Josh Hallard, who picked out Dapo Mebude. A trademark burst forward from Mebude got our supporters off their seats, before he found Bartley, and his pass was latched onto by Henry Lawrence. Urged to shoot by the crowd, Lawrence didn’t need a second invitation to try his luck, and he struck a fine effort that was well saved by the keeper.

It was interesting to see Lawrence playing in midfield for the first time since he joined us in the summer. The on-loan Chelsea full-back’s versatility was mentioned favourably when he first signed for us, and he certainly has the skill on the ball to be a success further up the pitch. Powerful young forward Bartley produced a promising first-half display, holding the ball up effectively to offer his team a useful platform to build upon.

As we approached half-time, Palace fashioned their best chance so far when a good move ended with Rob Street found in space inside the area. He struck a decent effort from an acute angle, but Zaki Oualah reacted swiftly to save at his near post and he did very well to hold the shot. Our keeper did even better on the stroke of half-time when he dived to his right to make a brilliant save with Nya Kirby’s piledriver tipped wide.

With the half-time score at 0-0, it didn't appear that another high scoring classic was on the cards after the thrills and spills of the 5-3 home win versus Portsmouth. However, there had certainly been promising spells of play from both sides in the first-half. Mark Robinson made his first change eight minutes after the restart with Luke Jenkins withdrawn in his comeback match after a long spell out injured and Ethan Sutcliffe taking his place. 

The visitors started the second-half well with the pace of David Omilabu proving tough to handle and it was his contribution that helped make the breakthough. He dashed down our right side with a fine turn of pace, before cutting the ball back for Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, who finished clinically from close-range. In response, Mebude attempted to lift Wimbledon with a couple of probing runs, but Palace managed to cope with his threat.

Palace had a half chance to double the advantage through Nya Kirby, but he shot into the side netting. At the other end, Bartley got on the end of a cross, but his header drifted off target. 

Just after the hour came another change for Wimbledon with young attacker Marcel Campbell introduced for Olaniyan. With the Dons still searching for a goal to restore parity, Aron Sasu, who impressed in our FA Youth Cup last season, was introduced for Bartley, who received a fine ovation from the Dons fans after his lively forward display. However, the match was effectively sealed for Palace in the 83rd minute when Rob Street fired home emphatically from an acute angle after finding space inside the area on our left side. 

As the Dons searched in vain for a way back into this match, Sutcliffe showed no fear with his bold runs down the right flank, joining in the attack at every opportunity. Despite pressing until the every end, there was no late consolation, Paul Osew's shot wide coming closest to getting one back. Wimbledon's potential progress in this competition now hinges upon a visit to Sutton United in two weeks' time.

AFC Wimbledon: Zaki Oualah, Henry Lawrence, Dan Csoka, Ethan Chislett, Dapo Mebude, Darius Charles, Luke Jenkins (Ethan Sutcliffe), Paul Osew, Josh Hallard, Isaac Olaniyan (Marcel Campbell), Quaine Bartley (Aron Sasu).


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