BY DANIEL MARSH
AFC Wimbledon manager Wally Downes was upbeat despite seeing his side edged out on penalties against Milton Keynes in the League Cup last night.
The Dons took the lead through Scott Wagstaff before MK struck back through Conor McGrandles and David Kusumu. A late strike from Luke O’Neill was enough to force a penalty shoot-out, with Callum Reilly and Joe Pigott missing from 12 yards as Wimbledon missed out on a place in the second round.
But there were plenty of positives for Wimbledon before the outcome penalties.
“You’d like to win it but equally you can lose it,” said the Dons manager when discussing the decisive shoot-out.
“It doesn’t bother me too much, I’m obviously disappointed to lose it but you can never be too disappointed to lose on penalties.
“I’ve just said to them in there, let the disappointment of losing on penalties in the last five minutes, because that’s not a game of football. You’ve got yourself back into the game after 90 minutes and you should be euphoric at that. If it’s a league game, you’re back for a 2-2 draw, and the fans go home happy.”
The Dons’ steely resilience which helped drive them towards last season’s miraculous escape from relegation was evident on the night as they fought back to level in the games dying embers through right-back Luke O’Neill.
“We’ve spoke about it before, we don’t stop,” said Downes.
“We keep going, no matter what happens. I wasn’t too happy with the way the game panned out in a lot of the areas. I thought we weren’t compact enough, they wanted to play a spread-out game and we got caught up in the cup-tie really and it was an open game which is not really suited to us.”
The Dons have a chance to bounce back quickly with Accrington Stanley, the visitors to Kingsmeadow on Saturday as League One action returns for the Dons.
Downes has seen enough to know his side are close to getting things right.
“The two teams we’ve played so far, we’ve had the better of both teams in a half,” said Downes.
“Rotherham, second half, we were the better team. Fleetwood we should have been 3-0 up. We had a goal disallowed, and then an easy one v one we usually score. Looking at it we could have been 3-0 up at Fleetwood inside 40 minutes. We were better than them in the first half, better than Rotherham in the second half.
“We’re a young side, we’re still learning.
“There are a few debutants out there with not many games under their belt so it’s a case of sticking with it and getting them through it and getting the two halves put together. If we can put the two halves together, we’ll be a good side.”