Donley downs Dons in FA Youth Cup
AFC Wimbledon 0-3 Spurs (AET) (FA Youth Cup)
Wed 31 March 2021, 21:22|Tottenham Hotspur
Three goals in extra time, including two in the last few minutes, saw our Under-18s defeat a stubborn AFC Wimbledon side in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday evening.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between over the course of normal time at Plough Lane but substitute Jamie Donley's well-taken opener nine minutes into the additional half-an-hour gave us the breakthrough we'd deserved after a gruelling battle that had seen goalkeeper Thimothee Lo-Tutala pull off a stunning save to deny Dylan Adjei-Hersey just moments earlier.
Young striker Donley, still technically an Under-16s player, subsequently skied another good chance over the bar but his opener had given us a hold on the game and as Wimbledon began to tire in the last 15 minutes, he set up Romaine Mundle to make it 2-0 before doubling his own tally with a tap-in after good work by Kallum Cesay right at the end of the contest.
It means we advance to host West Bromwich Albion in round five.
Neither side was able to fashion a meaningful effort at goal in the first half, Isaac Ogundere's near-post header from a corner creeping over for Wimbledon and Roshaun Mathurin's low drive for us saved comfortably by goalkeeper Matt Cox in the lead-up to half-time. Troy Chiabi did have the ball in the back of the net for the Dons nine minutes into the second period after Lo-Tutala had saved Obed Yeboah's shot, but the off-side flag went up early and we stayed on level terms. Chiabi also tried to get free in behind after a long ball over the top a few moments later but Matthew Craig – deputising at centre-half alongside Marqes Muir with Maksim Paskotsi on international duty with Estonia – came across well to cover.
Yago Santiago caused problems for AFC Wimbledon down our left side after coming off the bench in the second half, often weaving his way to the byline and cutting the ball back, but we couldn't quite capitalise and our quest to find a breakthrough rumbled on into extra time.
Wimbledon seemed satisfied to have kept us at arm's length for most of the game but, crucially, we didn't allow frustration to set in and went close in the 93rd minute when Santiago's cross was cleared only as far as Alfie Devine, but he shot straight at keeper Cox in what was at that point our best chance of the game. Four minutes later, Lo-Tutala made a magnificent save to his left to somehow claw Adjei-Hersey's header around the post as it crept towards the bottom corner, the importance of which cannot be understated in the overall context of the game – a goal at that point for Wimbledon could have spelled the end for us, but two minutes later it was our players who were celebrating after Donley took a touch in the box to control Mundle's right-wing delivery and fired low into the net to open the scoring.
The striker also went close twice in two minutes from separate Santiago cut-backs near the start of the second period of extra time, his first attempt blocked and his second going over the bar in a golden chance to make sure of the win, but Wimbledon were tiring and we dominated that phase of the game, eventually doubling our lead in the 116th minute when Donley produced an excellent pass from out on the left, allowing Mundle to place a first-time shot into the net from a central position. And a minute into stoppage time, we found the net once again as the energetic Cesay – by that stage playing in central midfield having started the game at right-back – forced a mistake in the Dons’ defence and sent the ball trickling towards the unguarded net, with Donley gleefully finishing it off to complete a hard-earned 3-0 win.
‘I enjoyed watching us with our backs against the wall’
Under-18s Coach Matt Taylor said: “First and foremost, it was a really good game for our players because Wimbledon have a different style that our boys haven't faced this season – we had to deal with a lot of longer balls, a lot of long passing and I thought Wimbledon were very good at what they do, but what was pleasing for me was that our players found a way to win the game. Thimmi in goal made one outstanding save but other than that it was pretty much us in possession of the football. I was disappointed that we didn't control the game well enough when we had the ball but the players showed fantastic spirit and came through what was a really difficult tie to go on and win the game convincingly.
“It was a fantastic stop from Thimmi and it shows how quickly football can change because within two minutes, we went up the other end and scored. I was really happy with the difference that the substitutes made – they would have been disappointed that they weren't starting the game but the attitude and the quality that they showed was great and for Jamie to come on, take his goals ever so well and also provide an assist… it was a really fantastic squad performance from that perspective.
“We can and we will play better this season but I enjoyed watching us with our backs against the wall and I enjoyed seeing the boys make the decisions on the pitch because this game was probably indicative of what League One and League Two football can be, so it was great to see our players really compete. As I said, I thought Wimbledon were really good so for us to come through what was a difficult tie, all the coaches are really pleased.”
AFC Wimbledon 0-3 Spurs (AET) (FA Youth Cup)
AFC Wimbledon: Cox, Mason, Onabanjo (Bangura 108), Frimpong, Ogundere (c), Sutcliffe, Adjei-Hersey, Ali (Lock 103), Yeboah (Sasu 55), Bartley (Olaniyan 66), Chiabi. Substitutes (not used): Lahan, Jones, Campbell.
Spurs: Lo-Tutala (c), Cesay, Kyezu, Michael Craig (Donley 74), Matthew Craig, Muir, Mathurin (Santiago 69), John, Scarlett (Hackett 91), Devine (Cassanova 98), Mundle. Substitutes (not used): Hayton, Dorrington.
Goals: Spurs - Donley 99, 120+1, Mundle 116.
Yellow cards: AFC Wimbledon - Yeboah 29, Frimpong 79; Spurs - Michael Craig 29, Scarlett 59, Devine 80, Muir 84, Donley 89.
Referee: Aji Ajibola.
Venue: Plough Lane, Wimbledon.
Weather: Partly cloudy, light winds, 17 degrees.