A youthful AFC Wimbledon side lost out 3-1 to Sporting Bengal United in the London Senior Cup on Wednesday evening.
The game proved to be another valuable experience for our Academy prospects, with the squad being comprised of players from various age groups.
Sporting Bengal’s seniority shone through in the end, however it was a victory that they were made to work hard for by the young Dons, with Justin Clarke bagging our only goal of the night - following up his FA Youth Cup heroics of the previous evening.
Under-18s Head Coach Simon Clarke named a side featuring several players who featured in our 2-1 victory over Cambridge United, with match-winner Clarke in from the off. There were also runouts for Quaine Bartley and Mathias Tepe.
Sporting Bengal offered a physical test for our young side but it was a challenge that they stood up to well in the opening quarter of the first-half. The Dons thought they had taken the lead early on through Kai McKenzie, with the forward bundling home following Bartley’s initial effort, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Despite our bright start, it was the hosts who took the lead, as a shot by Sheri Artmeladze from around 25 yards flew into the far corner, giving Ethan McGrath little chance of keeping it out.
Up the other end, Sean Sankanu saw a header drift wide from a corner as we looked to bounce back quickly after falling behind. However, it was the Bengal Tigers who doubled their lead with Artmeladze striking a delicately lobbed finish over McGrath. This left our side with plenty of work to do as the two teams trooped in at half-time.
Clarke was posing a big threat to the Bengal backline in the opening stages of the second 45 minutes, charging down the left-hand side before seeing a cut-back hacked clear. Hugo Few was also showing some nice touches in the centre of the park as he kept things ticking over.
Artmeladze went on to complete his hat-trick not long after, charging in behind before finishing low. It was becoming a scoreline that was perhaps harsh on our young side who showed promising moments against a senior outfit.
There was a glimmer of hope for the Dons, with Clarke blitzing in behind to fire into the far corner past the goalkeeper as he made it two goals in two days.
It was the very least Wimbledon deserved on the balance of play as we continued to push our opponents until the end. Our number 62 almost bagged his second of the evening, striking the base of the post with a curling free-kick.
It proved to be the final action of the evening as bowed out of the London Senior Cup at the first round stage.
AFC Wimbledon: Ethan McGrath (Eterne Djedje), Quaine Bartley (Kiayon Moore), Sam Goma (George Upsdell), Tom Carvalho-Norris, Hugo Few, Mathias Tepe, Sean Sankanu, Kelvin Kargbo (Jack McGibbon), Justin Clarke, Connor Harris (Amaari Sealey), Kai McKenzie
PIC: Stephen Flynn (Pro Sports Images)