Wimbledon slipped to their second away defeat in five days after a lacklustre performance at Chesterfield this afternoon.
While it was a marginal improvement on the midweek defeat at Port Vale, Wimbledon offered little as an attacking force and second-half goals from Armand Gnanduillet and Jack Lester condemned them to a 2-0 defeat.
With Wimbledon having produced a below-par display at Port Vale on Tuesday, it was little surprise that manager Neal Ardley decided to make four changes to his starting line-up. It was back to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation with Jack Midson restored to the front line with Pim Balkestein the defender to make way. Luke Moore (pictured), Jonathan Meades and Stacy Long also all returned with Sammy Moore, Rashid Yussuff and Toby Ajala having to settle for places on the bench.
The Dons made a start that belied their position at the bottom of League 2 as they dominated early possession. However, Chesterfield created a chance with their very first attack in the eighth minute when Danny Whitaker picked out Jay O’Shea on the right side, but Jim Fenlon got back well to block the shot. Wimbledon responded with their best move so far when Luke Moore picked out Long in the box and his goal-bound strike was only just deflected away from target.
Chesterfield suffered a setback in the 20th minute when striker Marc Richards had to go off injured and he was replaced by Jack Lester. It did not take long for the substitute to make an impact, but for all the wrong reasons when he was booked by referee Iain Williamson for diving with Mat Mitchel-King having clearly pulled out of the challenge.
Wimbledon had their best chance of the first-half in the 40th minute when Peter Sweeney found Midson and his clever flick fell perfectly for Gary Alexander, but the striker blazed over the crossbar with an opportunity he would have expected to do better with. In a first-half when Alan Bennett provided a commanding presence in defence, Wimbledon provided stubborn resistance. As a result Chesterfield failed to trouble Neil Sullivan with only a Sam Hird strike just wide threatening to make a difference.
However, with Wimbledon having failed to make any impression themselves as an attacking force, Neal Ardley decided to make a half-time change with Wimbledon aiming to utilise the pace of Toby Ajala, who replaced Jack Midson. The change resulted in Wimbledon’s best spell of the match so far five minutes into the second-half with Ajala’s introduction causing problems down the right. First, the pacy winger powered down the wing and sent in a cross that was just cleared and then Alexander came so close to diverting Fenlon’s cross into the net. But the Dons were caught napping just before the hour and were made to pay. Nathan Smith was left in space on the left and his cross presented a shooting chance in the area for substitute Armand Gnanduillet, who needed no second invitation to beat Sullivan with a lovely curler into the top corner.
Wimbledon made another change in the 68th minute in an attempt to conjure up a response with Paul McCallum entering the fray for Long. It had been a lacklustre effort from the visitors up until that point and Neal Ardley was gesticulating frantically from the technical area for his side to increase the tempo of their performance. But Wimbledon failed to raise their game and it was effectively all over in the 83rd minute when the visitors were caught on the break. With the Dons having committed men forward, a long ball picked out Gnanduillet and he turned Bennett before finding Lester and he finished emphatically past Sullivan. A measure of Wimbledon’s attacking display was that it took until the 84th minute for them to finally test Chesterfield goalkeeper Tommy Lee when Ajala set-up Luke Moore and his curler was well held. Only a superb flying save from Sullivan to deny Drew Talbot prevented a more emphatic defeat for Wimbledon.
Apart from Luke Moore's near miss, Wimbledon never threatened a consolation and there was little to enthuse about for the 441 Dons supporters who made the trip to the Proact Stadium.
AFC Wimbledon: Neil Sullivan, Jim Fenlon, Chris Hussey, Peter Sweeney (Sammy Moore), Alan Bennett, Mat Mitchel-King, Stacy Long (Paul McCallum), Jonathan Meades, Gary Alexander, Jack Midson (Toby Ajala), Luke Moore.