Karl Robinson was delighted with the impact 18-year-old debutant Chris Long had in Dons’ 3-2 win over Shrewsbury on Saturday.
The striker, on loan from Everton, scored his first professional goal midway through the first half to put Dons 2-1 up and was given a standing ovation when he left the pitch with 10 minutes remaining.
Another teenager, Dele Alli fired Dons into the lead after just three minutes, but Dons were pegged back three minutes later when Ryan Wood equalised for Shrewsbury. Long restored the lead before Dean Bowditch scored on his return to first team action to make it 3-1. A late Joe Jacobson strike made for a nervous finale for the home side, but Robinson was delighted with the performance of his striker.
“He was the biggest threat on the pitch. He’s just shown my strikers how to play. He’s quick, he’s brave, he works hard, he pins people.
“He’s only 18. I helped him move in on Wednesday and when I left him, I felt like giving him a hug! He’s never been away from home and it’s a big task for an 18-year-old.
“Is he the finished article? No, but I’ve seen glimpses of a great player. He moves like Robbie Fowler, with a touch of arrogance which you need and he’s brave.
“I asked him what number he wanted. I said ‘15’ and he asked whose it was before. I told him it was Patrick’s and he said he’ll take it.
“We all know how talented Patrick is, but this young lad has come in and said ‘give me the shirt, I’ll carry on scoring for you!’”
Bowditch’s return, and textbook strike, turned out to be the winning combination as he scored the third with 15 minutes to go, and Robinson said it’s like a new signing for him.
He said; “I do harp on about the quality he possesses and I do moan when he’s not fit, and that’s why.
“The game was even when he came on, there wasn’t a lot in it. We had to stand up and be counted.
“There wasn’t much in it. I think 3-2 was fair, because we didn’t deserve a 3-1. It was a close match, topped off with bits of genius by young kids and a special player who has been out for a long time.”
This time last year, Robinson was lamenting the loss of Stephen Gleeson, Luke Chadwick and Dean Bowditch from first team competition. With Bowditch and Chadwick on the bench again, Robinson believes there’s a lot more to come from his side in 2014.
“We finished with Bowditch and Powell, which was a lot more structured,” he said.
“We had a strong bench with Smith, Galloway, Chadwick and McLoughlin, and Flanagan in the stands. This time last year, I was losing all my players. A year on, I’m getting them all back.
“The pitch didn’t help, it stops us playing the way we want to play and it needs to be better.”