A superb strike from Lyle Taylor and a late penalty from Bayo Akinfenwa earned promotion for AFC Wimbledon on a fantastic day for the club.
Taylor’s brilliant goal after a great ball in from Callum Kennedy put the Dons in charge against Plymouth and Akinfenwa's cool spot-kick capped a magnificent season for Neal Ardley’s men. Over 21,000 Dons fans celebrated the 2-0 win in style at the famous stadium and it was a fully deserved victory on the day.
With an 11-day gap since Wimbledon booked their place at Wembley by beating Accrington Stanley, it had seemed like a long build-up to the big day, but now it was finally here. Both sets of supporters created a brilliant atmosphere at Wembley as we approached kick-off.
There was just one change to Neal Ardley’s starting line-up with Connor Smith thrown straight back in after injury in place of Sean Rigg. Wimbledon settled into the game well and there was a half chance early on when a Callum Kennedy free-kick fell for Lyle Taylor, but he was unable to get a proper connection and Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick gathered comfortably.
In the first half hour, Wimbledon were looking for the height of Tom Elliott at every opportunity and the towering striker was causing problems galore. It was his smart flick-on that sent Taylor racing clear on the right for another sight of goal, but his shot was deflected into the side netting. Another half chance followed when the subsequent corner was only half cleared and Jake Reeves volleyed just wide.
With Wimbledon’s back four producing a solid start, Plymouth barely had a sight of goal in the first half an hour. All of Wimbledon’s best moments came through Elliott and it was another of his headers that so nearly created a chance for Paul Robinson, but Plymouth defender Kelvin Mellor just got there first. With Dannie Bulman and Jake Reeves controlling matters in midfield, Wimbledon had plenty of possession in the first half an hour. Plymouth did threaten in the 32nd minute though when Jake Jervis found space in the box, but his shot was blocked.
As the first-half wore on, Plymouth gradually started to come into it and Darius Charles showed what he is all about with great defending to stop Jake Jervis getting in at the far post after a lovely ball in from Gregg Wylde. These two teams had been so closely matched in previous meetings during the regular season and the 0-0 score line at half-time suggested it was going to be tough to separate them again.
Plymouth came out the traps fast at the start of the second-half, but Wimbledon remained resolute at the back. At the other end, there was relief for Plymouth when Carl McHugh got a defensive clearance all wrong and his lob flashed just past the post. At this stage, the Dons were really piling forward as they played towards the end containing Wimbledon’s great support.
Though Wimbledon were forced to defend deep as Plymouth started to gain more possession, gaps started to open up for Wimbledon to exploit. A great chance so nearly materialised for Wimbledon when Barry Fuller’s pass picked out Bulman in space down the right, but he was just unable to slide a pass through for Barcham, who was waiting on his own in the middle.
Derek Adams’ side had their best spell of the game midway through the second-half and twice in a matter of minutes Wimbledon needed Kelle Roos to be alert. First, the Dutch goalkeeper got down well to save a long-range free-kick from Graham Carey and then he held on well to a header from Peter Hartley.
With 68 minutes on the clock, Neal Ardley made a change with Jon Meades earning deserved reward for his excellent season and comeback from injury. Meades replaced Smith and there was another change shortly afterwards with Bayo Akinfenwa entering the fray for Tom Elliott.
The changes seemed to reinvigorate Wimbledon and the all-important opener followed 12 minutes from the end of normal time. The ball was only half cleared to Callum Kennedy and his wonderful ball in was met with a superb low finish from Lyle Taylor. It was typical of the form that Taylor had shown all season and the celebrations were not bad too as he wheeled away to give his manager a hug on the touchline.
The goal had sparked ecstatic scenes among the Wimbledon support and they were so nearly celebrating a second when Barry Fuller was sent racing through, but he was just foiled by McCormick. Akinfenwa was also denied by the Plymouth goalkeeper in a frantic finale, but he scored from the spot to seal a fantastic promotion after Ade Azeez had been brought down in the box . What an achievement and what a way to do it for Neal Ardley’s men.
AFC Wimbledon: Kelle Roos, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Andy Barcham, Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott (Bayo Akinfenwa), Lyle Taylor (Ade Azeez), Connor Smith (Jon Meades).