Wimbledon were handed a wake-up call tonight with their impressive recent run ended in emphatic fashion at Accrington.
The Dons never looked like earning a fourth successive win as they were left reeling by a devastating start from former England international Francis Jeffers that put Accrington 2-0 up inside 19 minutes and that set-up the hosts for a convincing 4-0 win. It was a tough night for Wimbledon, especially for the 247 Dons supporters who made the long trip to Lancashire, and Neal Ardley’s men were left in no doubt that they still have work to do in the survival stakes.
Neal Ardley again decided to shuffle his pack at Accrington tonight with four changes from the side which started at Aldershot on Saturday. Kevin Sainte-Luce, Luke Moore and Stacy Long were all restored to the side with Brennan Dickenson, Rashid Yussuff and Jack Midson having to settle for places on the bench. The other change saw Kelly Youga stepping into the right-back role vacated by Jonathan Meades, who was on international duty with Wales Under-21s.
The Dons were stunned by a rapid start from an Accrington side buoyed by a fervent home support, helped by the Lancashire club having reduced their prices to just £5 for adults. And the hosts were rewarded with an opening goal in just the fifth minute with Jeffers striking in spectacular style. Though Wimbledon were not helped by a short clearance from John Sullivan (pictured), there was still a lot of work to do when Amine Linganzi picked out Jeffers, but the former Everton and Arsenal striker found the top corner with a sublime 20-yard curler.
Wimbledon showed a good response to that early setback and Sainte-Luce put over a dangerous cross that Accrington goalkeeper Paul Rachubka only just managed to get a hand to and Peter Murphy cleared his lines. However, it was 2-0 in the 19th minute when that man Jeffers again rolled back the years in style. Jeffers, who was playing Champions League football for Arsenal in Valencia 10 years ago to the day, beat the offside flag and though his initial effort was well saved by Sullivan, he reacted quickly to head home the rebound.
The visitors continued to enjoy good possession and in that sense the 2-0 scoreline was a little harsh. Coming back into the game certainly never looked beyond Wimbledon at this stage and Long sent over a great cross that Alan Bennett met with a decent header, but Rachubka was equal to it. However, the Dons had a mountain to climb in the 32nd minute when Accrington made it 3-0 with a goal that was a terrible one to concede from a Wimbledon perspective. A simple long ball over the top from Lawrence Wilson caught out the Wimbledon defence and with Sullivan failing to come off his line, Will Hatfield had a simple task to increase the advantage. As the half-time whistle approached, Wimbledon’s main attacking threats had been kept quiet, in particular Accrington left-back Wilson was doing a good job on marshalling Sainte-Luce.
Unsurprisingly, Neal Ardley decided to ring the changes at half-time with Midson entering the fray for Sammy Moore and Dickenson replacing Luke Moore. Wimbledon struggled to muster a response straight after the restart and Accrington came close to making it 4-0 when Hatfield created space for himself and had a fine effort beaten out by Sullivan. With Sainte-Luce struggling to make an impact on out wide, the tricky winger started to float inside and that almost paid instant dividends. Long sent over a teasing cross and Sainte-Luce connected with a fine volley that hit the inside of a post, but rolled away to safety with Rachubka beaten.
It got worse for Wimbledon though in the 64th minute when Lee Molyneux played a one-two with Hatfield and drove home an emphatic finish past Sullivan. Now it was a case of Wimbledon attempting to salvage pride and they twice came close to getting one back in the space of a minute. First, Mat Mitchel-King had a header cleared off the line from a Long corner and then Midson failed to apply the finish from close-range after good work by substitute Jesse Darko.
Bennett came close with a header wide and Midson was denied by Rachubka, but there was to be no late consolation for Wimbledon though and they will need to do much better at home to Morecambe on Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: John Sullivan, Kelly Youga, Chris Hussey, Sammy Moore (Jack Midson), Alan Bennett, Mat Mitchel-King, Stacy Long, Harry Pell, Gary Alexander, Luke Moore (Brennan Dickenson), Kevin Sainte-Luce (Jesse Darko).