Teenage striker Justin Clarke made the grade to become our youngest ever first team debutant - and at a time when he’s preparing for another big test in the classroom.
The 15-year-old earned top marks from Johnnie Jackson in training, to be awarded his big opportunity in the closing stages of the Trophy game against League One Wycombe Wanderers at Adams Park.
“I missed school on Friday to train with the first team for the day,” said Justin. “I’ve just had my mocks as well. School and exams are important too.
“The players welcomed me in and they involved me in everything they do. It was a good feeling to get my debut, even though it wasn’t the result we wanted.
“I’ve got to work harder than before now because you always want to progress. I’m proud of the achievement, but I want to do more. Next time I want to try to get a goal and make an impact for the first team.”
While Justin initially came to our academy after moving on from Chelsea’s development programme, Junior Nkeng - who also brought youthful exuberance to our attack as a late substitute - has found a new home with us since leaving Spurs.
“From Under-10s to Under-15s I was at Tottenham,” said Junior. “I got released and then went on trial with Wimbledon for the Under-16s in pre-season. I signed in September.
“It’s a very good feeling to represent the Club at first team level. Last time in this competition I came on for a minute or so against Crystal Palace to make my debut, but this time I got much longer and I was so happy to be on the pitch.
“I had a bit of a rocky start with the academy, but I’ve been getting goals and now I want to score in the FA Youth Cup. That’s my next goal! We’re trying to get more of us in with the first team - training and making debuts. We also want to stay top of the league."
Our Under-18s dropped to third in the Youth Alliance South East yesterday, after defeat at new leaders Luton Town. Stevenage, Thursday night’s visitors to Plough Lane for the second round tie in the Youth Cup, occupy second.
However, the young Dons duo and their skipper Kai Jennings - who made his third first-team appearance at Wycombe - are set to return to the academy squad for the game under the lights at the Cherry Red Records Stadium (kick-off 7pm).
“This is what we’ve got to focus on now,” said Kai. “We could face Blackburn Rovers at home in the next round, but we’ve got to beat Stevenage first. Everyone is going to work hard in preparation and do all we can on Thursday.
“When we play with our age group, we need to make sure that we’re dominating, keep pushing ourselves, and each other. Hopefully, more of us can make the breakthrough, because we’ve shown there is a tight bond between the Under-18s and the first-team.
“The manager and Rob Tuvey advised me to keep working hard and to try to dominate at my age group. Chances like this will come around if we do that and put us in a good place to be selected.”
Match photography by Stephen Flynn (Pro Sports Images).