U18s wrap up with Wimbledon draw
AFC Bournemouth Under-18s came from behind to draw 1-1 with title challengers AFC Wimbledon Under-18s at Kingsmeadow in the final game of the 2018/19 season in Merit League One on Sunday.
David Fisher’s first half strike wasn’t enough to get all three points for the home side, as Euan Pollock equalised before the Cherries missed a late penalty.
Bournemouth got caught trying to step out with the ball early on, as Wimbledon countered and put the ball across the 18-yard box for Fisher to bury it into the bottom left corner.
But the visitors looked a different side in the second half, when James Oliver assisted Pollock to tap in for 1-1. A final Bournemouth win wasn’t to be, however, as a late foul on Connor Kurran-Browne resulted in a penalty being missed by Luke Pardoe.
Speaking to afcb.co.uk after the game, Under-18s manager Alan Connell had this to say on the following topics…
A GAME OF TWO HALVES
“We started poorly. Wimbledon were very aggressive and made it difficult for us to get our passing game going. We had a real wobble in the first 20 minutes of the game and were indebted to Cameron Plain for a couple of good saves. They were key to us staying in the game.
“We slowly started to get our passing going and made some better runs, but ultimately our quality wasn’t there and there were too many basic errors. That makes the game difficult for us because of the way we play.
“It was interesting at half-time because a couple of the more senior players, even though we had a very young team of first-years and Under-16s, voiced their opinions to their team-mates, so that was encouraging to see that sort of leadership amongst them.
“They told each other the things that could be done a lot better and then I added bits and pieces. In the second half, we responded in the right way. Physically, we wore Wimbledon down towards the end and our movement was better. We switched the ball a lot quicker and were more aggressive in our forward runs which stretched Wimbledon more and more.
“Scoring the penalty would’ve been a really nice way to round off the season to come back and win the game, but I was delighted in the second half with our response. We look like a team ready to kick on next season, but it’s important the boys realise it’s not about 45 minute displays, it’s about 90 minute displays.
“It was another good stadium experience for the boys, in an evening kick-off under the floodlights. It was really well put on by Wimbledon and everyone enjoyed the experience.”
END OF SEASON REVIEW
“I’m really pleased and very proud of the players. We’ve taken nine out of the 11 second-year players on for next season, which is maybe more than we would have expected, but they’ve given their all every single day so credit to them as they make the progression into the Under-21s.
“Those second-years have had loads of loan exposure as well, and that’s going to be an ongoing pattern moving forward, but that’s helped them develop and mature quicker. The first-years have had loads of game time so they’ll be ready for next season.
“Results-wise, the FA Youth Cup run was a real highlight of the season. For us, they’re the most prestigious games so to progress to the quarter-finals and play against a hugely talented Manchester City side in front of a big crowd at Vitality Stadium was a real highlight.
“The boys deserve a lot of credit for creating history on that cup run. I’ve been pleased with the progression and the way we’ve played. The boys have stuck to the principles and their understanding of what we want from them has got better.
“Overall, I’m really pleased. Next year will be a new challenge and we’ll have to get the key messages into the Under-16s making the step up. It’s an exciting youth team next season again with those guys coming up plus the first-years in the Under-18s becoming second-years.
“You always see that jump when we come back for pre-season, the first-years look older and more powerful. All the ingredients are there for an exciting season next year and we’ll have a reasonably big squad with opportunities for everyone. There’s also going to be competition for places so it’s a challenge I’m hugely looking forward to.”
MARK TRAVERS’ SENIOR DEBUT
“Mark played for the Under-18s so as an Academy we were very proud on Saturday with his performance, as we were to have five Academy graduates in the match-day squad – two starting and three on the bench.
“It gives the fans a big lift because they’ve always loved home-grown players here, so I’m sure it was great for them and we were all delighted. It gave us all a nice feeling to see that on Saturday in what was a great day for the club beating Tottenham.
“It’s pleasing that the work that goes on by staff and players is reaping the rewards. It’s our job to work even harder and be as good as we can to help these players because we’ve got a lot of talented, young players at the football club.”
The AFC Bournemouth Under-18s side are sponsored by Strategic Solutions.