Its been a fantastic weekend for all Dons fans after the first team dramatically took the title (barring a mathematical miracle) at Hampton yesterday. Today I’m going to take some time to belatedly revisit Thursday nights Suburban League Cup final at Imber Court, which saw Marcus Gayle collect his first honour as a manager, by using a group of talented young players mainly drawn from the Under 18’s and Under 19’s. They won with style and on another night could have won by four or five.
Bedfort were a large, determined side, very well organised by their manager, who seemed dressed as if about to head off to compete in a professional snooker tournament. As has become usual for the Anonymous Don in recent games I had a nightmare, missing the team lineups (although thinking back I was stood right below the press box for the entire first half and could have nipped up and copied the PA guys team sheet. Not sure I really wanted to engage in conversation with him, he had the sound of a man who had just lost ten grand but found a Canadian penny, and kept making cryptic remarks to the officials as the ‘third team’). Sadly I couldn’t recognise any of the Dons players with the exception of Jack Turner in goal and Aaron Snelling, so had to identify them by listening to their calls to each other, and for that lackof respect I apologise to the lads.
The young Dons created all the openings in the first half, with Peter Rapson guilty of missing a couple of great chances, but of course doing well to get on the end of them to start with. The forward play of Rapson, Josh Orlando and (sorry, who was the number 9? Was it Ollie Killick? Will be grateful if someone could confirm this for me!) was a joy to behold at times. Orlando went close with a free kick, and Wimbledons ability to continually create chances was a credit to them as Bedfont frequently kept outfield nine players in their own half, reducing space for the Dons front men to operate.
This continued into the second half with Wimbledon missing a couple of gilt edged chances to take the lead (perhaps aware there were a number of fans used to watching the first team, where this sort of behaviour is expected). Until the tenth minute of the period saw a Dons corner from the right attacked at the far post by Rapson, making no mistake this time to give the young Dons the advantage.
Bedfont, with their gameplan now in tatters, were forced to push forward leaving gaps at the back for Wimbledon to exploit. It was Bedfont who had their best chances however, hitting the post before Turner was forced to make a couple of smart stops to his left and right, before a confident claim at a corner took the pressure off. It was then Wimbledons turn to try and kill the game, Orlando surging down the left channel before being brought down, stepping up himself to see his firm penalty well saved down to his left by the Bedfont keeper.
The game was so engrossing it took me 85 minutes to realise the reserves were wearing last years first team kit, and they looked comfortable for the remainder of the game despite missing a few chances to kill of Bedfont. The only item of note left to mention was Rapson was removed near the end to a raptuous applause from the gathered Dons, probably in excess of 200, replaced by Elton Gjoni to ensure the sun didn’t go down on Wimbledons chances.
I think its fair to say I went away a fan of Gayles boys, not having had the chance to watch too much reserve football I had been unaware he had brought this particularly talented group through. As a team they look good, for that reason its hard to see which individuals will have what it takes to step up into the first team, but when Marcus says ‘a few have what it takes to make the grade’ I believe him. When a player with several first team appearances such as Jack Stafford is restricted to a role on the bench, it goes to show the competition for places that exists among our young players.
Dons reserves are back in cup final action in May with the Suburban Shield final against Tonbridge Angels at Three Bridges, if you can make it there I strongly recommend doing so, you won’t be disappointed. Well done Marcus and the lads for ensuring their season finishes with at least one honour under your belts.