Friendlies Recap: AFC Wimbledon U23s & Ebbsfleet United
AFC Wimbledon U23s & Ebbsfleet United
January 23rd & January 26th 2021
With the announcement on Friday of the National League's North & South being suspended for a fortnight as talks regarding the situation with financial grants continue to be ongoing, Marc White looked to keep his squad sharp in the interim period with the swift announcement of two friendlies. Billericay Town were scheduled to be the visitors for league action on Saturday, but with the fixture immediately postponed, AFC Wimbledon U23s travelled down to Meadowbank to 'keep the appointment'. Then on Tuesday, Wanderers took on more familiar looking opposition in the shape of Ebbsfleet United, who were defeated in the first game of the new year at Meadowbank courtesy of a Matt Briggs finish and an own goal. Scheduled to be at at home, the fixture was switched to the Stonebridge Road Stadium as the hefty covering of snow at Meadowbank showed no signs of shifting.
Dorking 2 AFC Wimbledon U23s 0
Sticking to the format used throughout pre-season, Marc White named an eleven for each half, the first comprising of a more typical looking first team, the second mixing in some fresh yet familiar faces. With the Isthmian League suspended, dual registered midfielders Lewis Taylor and Charlie-Hester Cook (with Horsham and Leatherhead respectively) were brought into the fold, as was ex-Premier League player Jamie O'Hara, understood to have been training with the club in recent weeks following his departure as manager of Billericay Town. Youngsters James Dickson and Ollie Allen were named on the bench.
The young Dons accounted themselves well throughout the game with a high-energy display, the front three leading by example with persistent pressing up top. It was catching Wanderers out in the early going; Elliot Bolton afforded space in the area to get a shot off, Sami El-Abd shifting across quickly to recover and block the the effort. Bolton and Kwaku Frimpong both searched for goal as play-out from the back broke down, Obed Yeboah, nephew of the great Tony, then struck straight at Huk after battling through a 50/50 dual down the left. Rutherford had back-to-back opportunities amongst the early Wimbledon pressure, striking to win a corner and getting on the receiving end of it, but diverting wide of target. Just before the quarter hour it would be third time lucky though for the striker; McShane with some quick-thinking down the left, swiftly playing a short free kick into Wheeler, who drove the ball across goal at pace for Rutherford to tap home, catching the Dons defence off guard. Activity at both ends calmed as the game settled into a steadier tempo, although creeping towards half-time the Dons re-found their knack for pressuring effectively, and it led to a couple of hair raising moments for Wanderers. Yeboah got a couple of shots off from range, the second after coming through a 50/50 with Fogden down the right.The midfielder landed awkwardly in the tussle, and was forced off clearly in discomfort and holding his shoulder. Hester-Cook came on earlier than anticipated, but within a few minutes was found guilty of pushing Ayob Assall over in the penalty box after advancing through. The Wimbledon attacker put the ball on the spot, but had his kick saved by Huk, going the right way and making the save with his legs.
The visitors began the second-half in not dissimilar fashion to the first, pinning Wanderers back, Sarimnto-Ramirez pinging a couple of dangerous balls from wide, he and Assell both taking on sighters at goal as well. By the hour the contest had settled back into a tone more typical of a friendly, with play largely set in midfield. Sole had a couple of low efforts comfortably gathered by Cox, Troy Chiabi curling an effort after emerging from a 50/50 down the right to force Howes into a stop, before the keeper got down to Sarimnto-Ramirez free kick struck neatly under the wall, channelling his inner Leo Messi. O'Hara was dispatching balls well from his deep lying central midfield position searching for Briggs in the channel, and Beard would dispatch his own measured cross-field ball to pick out Taylor. He in turn crossed to find Sole, whose downward header couldn't test Cox. With ten minutes to go the introduction of Dickson and Allen freshened things up for Wanderers, and paid immediate dividends. After patient build up play Dickson's shot was blocked at close range, the ball then spilling out to Allen who placed a beautiful finish into the top right corner from just outside the box. Kwaku Frimpong and sub Quaine Bartley went close at the end with strikes just over the bar and past the far post respectively as The Dons sought a consolation, but it was not to be.
Wanderers: Slav Huk (Sam Howes 46'), Barry Fuller (Isaac Philpot 46'), Sam Beard (Ollie Allen 79'), Sami El-Abd (Ed Harris 46'), Dan Gallagher (Jamie O'Hara 46'), Wes Fogden (12 Charlie Hester-Cook 35'), Kane Wills (Nial McManus 46'), James McShane (Lewis Taylor 46'), Alfie Rutherford (Guiseppe Sole 46'), Jimmy Muitt (James Dickson 79'), Nick Wheeler (Matt Briggs 46')
Goals: Rutherford 13', Allen 81'
AFC Wimbledon U23s: Matt Cox, Elliot Bolton, Kwaku Frimpong, Archie Proctor, Obed Yeboah (Aron Sasu 84') , Jack Currie (Isaac Ogundere 72'), Luke Jenkins (Quaine Bartley 72'), Husyain Biler, Ayob Assall, Troy Chiabi (Ethan Sutcliffe 84'), Julian Sarimnto-Ramirez
Referee: Daniel Austin
Ebbsfleet 2 Dorking 1
Wes Fogden's injury sustained on Saturday ruled him out of tonight's game, Dan Gallagher was also left out of the squad as Jason Prior and Jake Gallagher came back in after being rested. Prior came in to what was a similar starting eleven to the weekend, and from the outset the causal observer would have assumed the game to be a competitive fixture, both sides starting at a high tempo. In an even start Rutherford had the first strike of the game tipped round the near post as he was played into the right channel, James Dobson having a threatening near post delivery cleared well by Fuller a few minutes later. As the half progressed Wanderers took a tighter grip on possession as 'Fleet looked to be compact, but few chances were coming off, Prior and Harris going closest but both nodding off target. Huk was forced into a one-handed tip-over on the stretch from Alfie Eagan's downward header, after a rapid counter and skillful run from Bobby-Joe Taylor down the left wing. Counting down to half-time Prior again went close with a header, spinning into his effort after McShane and Wheeler combined down the left, and in the follow up attack Wheeler's ball across was diverted into his own net by Jake Goodman, under pressure from Prior. That's now 2 in 2 for goals scored by Ebbsfleet for Wanderers this campaign. Fuller and Taylor both had to make key blocks near the goal line in a busy finish to the half, Muitt unlucky his quick feet and cut inside was curtailed by what looked like a foul at the edge of the box, McManus collecting the loose ball but dragging his shot wide.
Marc White switched nearly half his team at the break, including bringing Jake Gallagher in for his first appearance of the year, and Lewis Taylor came into an unfamiliar role on the right side of the back three. The game reverted back to being more even following the restart with Ebbsfleet having also made changes at the break. Sole and Alex Eirich drove shots over the bar, Howes did well to punch out a corner heading goal-bound, before Gallagher's excellent switch of play set Wheeler away on the counter, the winger getting past his man as he cut inside, and taking aim for the top right corner, unlucky not to hit the target as he clipped the top of the cross bar. As he had done on Saturday, O'Hara was spraying the ball with accuracy into the channels, Muitt and Rutherford benefiting but not able to find the target. Just past the hour 'Fleet got themselves back on terms, Sami El-Abd recovered brilliantly to keep the speedy Trialist at bay on the byline, but the resulting corner was not dealt with in the six-yard box, and Goodman, of all people, was on hand to boot the ball into the top of the net, cancelling out his opener. Hester-Cook and Gallagher were busy and effective in midfield trying to set things up for Wanderers as the game opened up in the final fifteen minutes, but speculative drives from distance were as good as it was getting in the final third, Sole and O'Hara the main contributors. With less than five minutes to go, Wanderers were undone by a moment of quality down the right. Iffy Allen had cut back for Dobson to have his sweeping effort blocked, but on the rebound attack Egan turned on the afterburners to get into the area, and bent a strike around Howes, the ball cannoning home off the inside of the near post. Dobson unselfishly cut back for Eirich who struck the outside of the post with the very last action of the game, no time for Wanderers to mount a recovery.
Ebbsfleet: Firth (Holmes 46'), Rowan, Goodman, Taylor, West, Egan, Trialist (Trialist 60'), Dobson, Eirich, Grant (Allen 46'), Joe-Taylor (Trialist 46')
Goals: Goodman 62', Egan 87'
Wanderers: Huk (Howes 45'), Fuller (Taylor 46'), Harris (El-Abd 45'), Beard, Wheeler (Membrillera 84'), McManus (J Gallagher 46'), Wills (O'Hara 57'), McShane (Hester-Cook 57'), Muitt (Dickson 78'), Rutherford (Allen 78'), Prior (Sole 46')
Goals: Goodman og 40'
Referee: Gerry Heron