AFC Wimbledon 2-0 Ebbsfleet United - It's been an incredible journey but we didn't want the journey to end, says disappointed Ebbsfleet United manager Gerard Prenderville

Thursday 26th November 2015
AFC Wimbledon 2 – 0 Ebbsfleet United
Location Kingsmeadow Stadium, Jack Goodchild Way, 422A Kingston Road, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey KT1 3BP
Kickoff 26/11/2015 19:00

The FA Youth Cup Second Round
Thursday 26th November 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Kingsmeadow Stadium

EBBSFLEET UNITED Academy manager Gerard Prenderville says it is his job to produce players for watching first team manager Daryl McMahon.

The Fleet missed out on a trip to Premier League Watford after losing 2-0 at AFC Wimbledon in The FA Youth Cup Second Round.

AFC Wimbledon opened the scoring inside the opening 11 minutes through left-winger Toyosi Olusanya, who won and converted the penalty.

The League Two hosts should have won by a lot more, as they hit the woodwork twice during a dominant first half.

Ebbsfleet United goalkeeper Rhys Hughes was outstanding, making a string of brilliant diving saves, but he was beaten for a second time late on when Olusanya scored his second of the night.

“I thought we were really poor in the first half, if I’m honest,” admitted Prenderville.

“They obviously came with a game plan and were better than us in the first half.  We didn’t keep our shape, we pressed them when we didn’t need to press.

“Rhys (Hughes) our goalkeeper performed miracles in the first half and we were lucky to get in at 1-0.

“Second half we had a bit more of a game plan, sit deeper and I thought for 20-30 minutes we were better than them second half and we didn’t capitalise on our chances but all-in-all I’m really disappointed for us. 

“Overall were they better than us? Yes, I think they were. Did we perform on the night? No I don’t think we did.”

Ebbsfleet United defeated Lingfield (3-2), Faversham Town (5-0), Eastbourne Town (3-2, after extra time) and Maidstone United (3-1) in qualifying and pulled off a shock 3-1 win at League One neighbours Gillingham in the First Round to set up tonight’s trip to AFC Wimbledon and were the last remaining Kent non-league club left in the competition.

“It’s been an incredible journey, I thought we had a few sticky bits in the first and second preliminary round but we’ve got a great group of lads, we’ve got a great group of boys that have stuck together and it had been an incredible journey,” praised Prenderville.

“We didn’t really want the journey to end. We would have loved to have gone out to a Premier League team or gone to Vicarage Road, Watford, but that wasn’t meant to be.

“We’ve got some really, really talented boys that the pro clubs are looking at but our job as a youth team boss is to have good runs in the Cup and do well in the league but it’s to produce players for the first team and I really hope some of these can go on and play for the first team.”

Mark Robinson’s side dominated the entire first half and were thwarted on many occasions by man-of-the-match Hughes.

The home side set the tone when a ball over the top played in Olusanya, whose left-footed chip was finger-tipped away by the diving Hughes after only 58 seconds.

Prenderville was full of praise for the work that the club’s goalkeeper coach does at all levels at Stonebridge Road.

“Ron (Hillyard) works wonders with all our goalkeepers at the football club,” he said.

“He (Hughes) does perform miracles.  He’s got great reactions.  It was a sloppy start from us.  I thought Wimbledon did start bright.”

It was no surprise when AFC Wimbledon opened the scoring with 10 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock.

Referee Michael Lowe pointed to the spot after Ebbsfleet United’s central defender Charlie Stewart tripped Olusanya just inside the box.

Olusanya grabbed the ball and sent Hughes the wrong way with his right-footed penalty, just right of centre.

“I think the boy done a bit wide right and got his cross in quite easily,” said Prenderville.

“I thought it was Joe (Denny) that slipped in the box and Charlie just couldn’t work his feet and brought him down for the penalty.

“Not a lot was going through my mind to be fair because every game that we’ve played in other than the Faversham game we’ve been 1-0 down, so I wanted us to re-group and try and create chances, which we did straight after that, but they had a little spell but I wanted to get in at half-time and make it one-all.”

The crowd of 344 inside Kingsmeadow expected the floodgates to open – but Hughes had other ideas.

AFC Wimbledon skipper Jason Stripp swung in a free-kick which was palmed away by a diving Hughes’ left-hand, high to his left, before the busy keeper got down low at his near post to turn away a low inswinging free-kick from the right from right-back Neset Bellikli.

Out-played Ebbsfleet United attacked down the left through full-back Karn Miller-Neave, but striker Jeffrey Nguede couldn’t get his shot away despite having a couple of goes inside the penalty area.

AFC Wimbledon were unlucky not to double their lead in the 23rd minute.

Central midfielder Alfie Egan swept the ball out to Olusanya on the left, who cut inside Oliver Boulding and powered a beautiful curling shot high over Hughes’ left shoulder from 25-yards, the ball clipping the outside of the far post.

Olusanya was AFC Wimbledon’s best player on the night and caused Boulding problems during the first half.

Prenderville admitted: “He was bright. I watched the DVD’s on him before. I think there wide left player is a very bright player and did cause us problems, although second half we did get to grips with him.”

AFC Wimbledon goalkeeper Will Mannion was a spectator for the entire game, other than making his only save in the 26th minute.

The Fleet worked a clever corner routine from the left, which was taken by quiet striker Munarchi Atumonyogo, cut back to Shilow Tracey (a central midfielder being tracked by Charlton Athletic) and left-winger Caleb Bearman-Dyce clipped his left-footed shot straight into Mannion’s hands from 25-yards.

Olusanya, Seanan McKillop and Egan linked up well for the home side and Stripp cut inside from the left and went close with a right-footed curler which sailed just around the far post from 30-yards.

Hughes pulled off another brilliant save to frustrate the home side in the 35th minute.

Egan played the ball into Olusanya, whose left-footed shot from 15-yards was destined for the back of the net, but Hughes dived to his left and used his left hand to push the ball towards safety.

Bellikli drilled a 30-yard shot just past the foot of the right-hand post, before striker Carpene played the ball in behind Joe Denny to put Egan through on goal but his chip dropped onto the top of the roof of the net when he only had Hughes to beat.

Ano skipped through the Ebbsfleet United midfield at ease and powered his left-footed drive crashing off the crossbar from 30-yards.

Prenderville added:  “We didn’t have an engagement line where we wanted to press the ball and deny shots. We looked at sixes and sevens and they created a tempo and a good atmosphere in and around the crowd by crosses and shots so yes we should’ve got to the ball quicker.”

But despite being outplayed, Ebbsfleet United were to be denied a goal against the run of play literally seconds before the half-time whistle blew.

Good play from Casey Johnson on the left saw him shrug off his marker before slipping the ball through to an unmarked Nguede, who stroked his right-footed drive into the bottom right-hand corner from 15-yards, but Spaniard Santiago Illan raised his offside flag.

Had that goal stood, the second half may have been a different story.

“I thought we had a chance just before half-time when Jeff scored that was offside, which I watched back on the video.” said Prenderville.

“Whether it was offside or not, I wanted to get the boys in and just change the shape slightly.

“It would’ve made my half-time team talk slightly easier (had the goal stood).

“But I need to watch it back. It was one of the time when Casey (Johnson) did get the ball under control and good forward play from Jeff to slide him in and a good finish.  The offside flag came up, which I’m disappointed with.”

The Ebbsfleet United manager added: “I said at half-time, listen, we’re 45 minutes from going out of the competition and we’ve worked so hard to get here.  We’ve had five games and they’ve had one.

“We sat slightly deeper and tried to play more counter-attacking second half and dropped off and let them have the ball at the back and to be fair they hit a few diagonals that Rhys comfortably dealt with.”

The second half was a cagey affair and Hughes pulled off another outstanding save inside the opening seven minutes.

Ano found himself running towards the heart of the Ebbsfleet defence and he played the ball to his right to Egan, who drilled his right-footed shot towards the top right-hand corner from 15-yards.  Hughes dived high to his left to push the shot over the crossbar.

“He likes that one, that’s one for the cameras,” said Prenderville.

“I think that’s a comfortable save but he made a little bit more of that than he needed to.”

AFC Wimbledon squandered an excellent chance just 118 seconds later and this time Hughes was not involved.

Carpene, who played a lot of the game up front on his own, played the ball into Stripp, who chipped the ball from the left-hand side of the penalty area towards the far post where Olusanya’s towering header was headed across goal and just past the far post from six-yards.

But when Robinson took off Carpene with just over 20 minute to go and seemed happy to sit back on their slender lead, this gave Ebbsfleet United an opportunity to strike back.

Johnson released Bearman-Dyce down the left and he won his side a left-wing corner.

Atumonyogo swung in a poor corner, which failed to clear the first defender and the ball came back to the corner taker, who cut inside and whipped in a quality cross, which he swung in towards the far post.  Goalkeeper Mannion was relieved when the ball evaded everyone and narrowly missed the foot of the far post.

“He hit the first man from the corner and you sort of fancy him in the area. He delivers a good ball, which he did and I think it was Casey who just fluffed his lines at the back post,” said the Fleet manager.

AFC Wimbledon were getting sloppy in their play but Ebbsfleet United didn’t have the quality in the final third to punish their opponents.

Ebbsfleet United’s right-back Boulding smacked his volley high over the bar, the roof of the stand and into the street.

Stripp delivered an excellent free-kick low into the Ebbsfleet United penalty area and Egan got a slight flick to the ball as it trickled just past the foot of the far post.

Hughes pulled off his final save of the night, backpeddling and using his left hand to tip the ball away after AFC Wimbledon’s left-back David Omperon whipped in a deep cross-come-shot that was heading in towards the far corner.

But with Ebbsfleet United pressing to force extra-time, AFC Wimbledon sealed their deserved victory with 42:51 on the clock, finishing off a three-man move inside the penalty area.

Substitute Reece Williams-Bowers held of his marker to turn inside the Ebbsfleet box to play the ball inside to Ano, who set up Olusanya, who capped off an excellent individual performance to guide his left-footed shot across the diving keeper’s outstretched right-hand to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards.

“It’s a well-worked goal, I must admit, it was a well-worked goal,” added Prenderville.

“We changed our shape slightly, we had to go for it. We brought on Rousaan (Simpson) on and we went four up top and three at the back.

“We knew that they were going to create chances but we had to slightly change our shape.

“Going out 2-0, going out 1-0, it’s going to be no difference. We tried to change our shape to try to make some chances.”

Ebbsfleet United created a late chance when Johnson was played in behind Williams-Bowers, but lashed his shot harmlessly wide and into the blue seats in the stand behind the goal.

There remains local interest in The FA Youth Cup as Championship club Charlton Athletic host their League One neighbours Millwall at The Valley in the Third Round next Wednesday 2 December (19:00).

But The Fleet can be proud of their epic run in the competition this season.

“It’s been a great run and the manager (McMahon) just came into the changing room afterwards and said we can’t stop developing,” said Prenderville.

“My job’s not about winning The FA Youth Cup or not winning the league. I’ll be judged on how many players I’ll get into the first team.

“They’re all around the manager’s eye at every single training session so we can take real positives from it. We’ll go back in, we’ll start again Monday morning and get to play on Wednesday.”

When asked about the players pushing for a chance in the first team squad, Prenderville replied: “Listen, you can take a few of the boys out of here, Rhys is in and around it. Shilow Tracey, Joe Denny, Charlie Stewart, but you could choose any of those boys who are in and around it. We’ve got a very, very strong squad with the first team so we’ll just keep training hard to get them involved.

“Daryl’s great, he’s been a great influence on my career.  I worked with him at Dagenham & Redbridge before. He brought me in this year to take the youth team when he was promoted to first team manager.

“He’s out all the time watching training. We’ve got some boys in and around training with the first team in the morning and then Daryl is out in the afternoon as well as David Jupp and Steve Gritt to cast an eye over the boys we’ve got in the squad.”

AFC Wimbledon: Will Mannion, Neset Bellikli (Reece Williams-Bowers 69), David Omperon, Toby Sibick, Paul Kalambayi, Jason Stripp, Daniel Ano, Seanan McKillop, Valentino Carpene (Nathan Wood 67), Alfie Egan, Toyosi Olusanya.
Subs: Jack Wingate, George Marchant

Goals: Toyosi Olusanya 11 (penalty), 88

Booked: Toyosi Olusanya 24

Ebbsfleet United: Rhys Hughes, Oliver Boulding (Rousaan Simpson 84), Karn Miller-Neave, Benedict Bowers (George Della Valle 46), Joe Denny, Charlie Stewart, Casey Johnson, Shilow Tracey, Jeffrey Nguede, Munarchi Atumonyogo, Caleb Bearman-Dyce.
Subs: Ben Nourse, Charlie Tagg, Harry Salter

Attendance: 344
Referee: Mr Michael Lowe (Reigate, Surrey)
Assistants: Mr Aaron Goodwin (Wallington, Surrey) & Mr Santiago Illan (Guildford, Surrey)