The Dons slipped to a third successive League 2 away defeat this season with an improved performance on the road failing to yield any points.
Though Wimbledon stemmed the tide of Northampton’s aerial bombardment for almost an hour, defensive lapses proved costly once again in a 2-0 defeat. Terry Brown’s men threatened to pull off a positive result for long spells as it was much better than those displays at Burton and Bradford, but the Cobblers were worthy winners in the end.
Terry Brown made just two changes from the side that started at Southend on Tuesday night as he decided to retain the youthful midfield spirit that showed so much promise at Roots Hall. Jim Fenlon missed out due to injury so that resulted in a recall for Warren Cummings and Stacy Long was also handed a start with Angus MacDonald stepping down to the bench. The decision to retain Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz in goal also showed the value of players stepping up and proving their worth in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, the Venezuelan having played particularly well at Southend.
It was obvious what Northampton’s main tactic was going to be straight from the outset as they aimed long balls towards the towering presence of Clive Platt. The Dons resisted early on, but the hosts had a great chance in the 10th minute when a Ben Tozer long throw found David Artell in space, but he head wide of the target. Jaimez-Ruiz was then tested for the first time when he had to be alert to save low at full stretch to deny a 30-yard Louis Moult strike.
The Dons did show fleeting moments of promise and Huw Johnson (pictured), who made a bright start to the match, rose highest in the box to meet a Stacy Long free-kick, but his header was straight at Northampton goalkeeper Lee Nicholls. The Cobblers were gifted the best chance of the match so far just after the half hour when a defensive mix-up resulted in Cummings passing straight to Platt, but Jaimez-Ruiz was out quickly to deny the striker with his feet. However, there was an instant response from the visitors as a flowing move created a good chance in the 35th minute. George Francomb’s cross was helped on by Byron Harrison for Long and his drive was just over the crossbar. There was more to come from the visitors, in particular from the impressive Johnson, as Wimbledon started to grow in confidence during the first-half. Johnson, who built on his fine midweek showing at Southend, unleashed a shot from 20 yards that Lee Nicholls did well to hold.
With the home support starting to get a little frustrated at the stalemate, there were desperate appeals for a penalty on the stroke of half-time after a challenge by Dale Bennett on Alex Nicholls, but referee Scott Duncan was not impressed.
Wimbledon made a change for the start of the second-half with Angus MacDonald replacing Dale Bennett at the heart of defence. The 438 travelling Dons fans were almost celebrating taking the lead just a minute after the interval when Harrison beat Lee Nicholls to a Huw Johnson cross, but his header was just over the crossbar.
The hosts had the ball in the back of the net when Platt fired nodded home at the second attempt after his initial effort was saved by Jaimez-Ruiz, but the linesman’s flag was straight up for offside. At the other end, fine link-up play between Harrison and Long ended with the latter firing a shot that produced strong appeals for a penalty, but the referee waved away the handball appeals.
However, after a promising spell from the Dons, they slipped behind on the hour when Artell got the better of Angus MacDonald and Alex Nicholls was left with a simple task to beat Jaimez-Ruiz from close range.
The Dons had a mountain to climb 19 minutes from time as they conceded a poor goal from a defensive perspective. Chris Hackett was allowed to run right through the middle and with the Dons defence backing off him, he needed no second invitation to charge through and beat Jaimez-Ruiz.
Terry Brown made a double substitution in an effort to turn things around with Luke Moore replacing Stacy Long and Christian Jolley replacing Johnson. But apart from a Jolley effort straight at Lee Nicholls, the visitors never threatened to get back into it.
AFC Wimbledon: Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz, Warren Cummings, Pim Balkestein, Stacy Long (Luke Moore), Sammy Moore, Byron Harrison, Jack Midson, Huw Johnson (Christian Jolley), Frankie Merrifield, George Francomb, Dale Bennett (Angus MacDonald).