AFC Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson revealed 15-year-old Justin Clarke missed school yesterday ahead of today’s debut at Wycombe in the EFL Trophy.
The Dons went down to a 1-0 defeat, with Kieran Sadlier snatching the only goal of the game after the break following Josh Davison’s first-half penalty miss.
Davison was one of eight changes to the starting XI, hardly a surprise considering Wimbledon were already through and a hectic run of fixtures right through until the new year is about to get underway next weekend.
That also enabled the Plough Lane gaffer to give several youngsters the chance to impress from the bench today, including Clarke who entered the fray late on in place of Davison.
Jackson told afcwimbledon.co.uk: “It was a fantastic moment.
“It’s great as a coach to give young lads opportunities.
“Junior Nkeng and Kai Jennings have already had little tastes of it.
“Justin Clarke got his opportunity today. He trained with us yesterday, we had to take him out of school!
“The lads have been great around him and he’s one we have really high hopes for.
“They were all bright when they came on. It’s fantastic for the club.”
Despite going down narrowly to League One opposition, Jackson felt overall his side merited at least a share of the spoils based on their display.
The boss said: “It was a really close game.
“We came here looking to win despite being through. It was a valuable game for us in terms of getting minutes into lads coming back from injury.
“It wasn’t the outcome we wanted or the outcome we deserved.
“We had some moments, we missed the penalty and I feel like their keeper has pulled off an unbelievable save at the end.
“I don’t know how he kept that one out. We would have deserved a draw on the balance of play.”
Jackson was impressed by the way Wimbledon upped their game after the restart, even if it didn’t produce any reward in the end.
He explained: “Our shape was a lot better in the second-half, we had looked a little disjointed in the first half an hour.
“We won the ball in better areas during the second and broke off our shape.
“There were a few moments where we counter attacked well.
“Ironically, we conceded in the period when we were on top.
“The response to the goal was good and we ended the game pushing hard for an equaliser with three young kids on the pitch.”