Substitute Chris Arthur was Wimbledon’s hero today with his first goal for the club capping a remarkable Dons fightback.
Arthur (pictured) had talked in the build-up to this game about adding goals to his game and the summer signing from Havant & Waterlooville delivered when it mattered to earn a 3-2 Wimbledon win after the Dons were two down at the break.
Neal Ardley was forced to make a change to his starting back four for the first time this season with captain Alan Bennett missing out due to a hamstring injury and that meant Rhys Weston stepped up for his home debut. The Wimbledon manager made two other changes to the side beaten at Exeter City with Sammy Moore making his first league start this season in place of Peter Sweeney and Charlie Sheringham preferred to Jack Midson.
The Dons made a bright start and Sheringham had two good chances to open his Wimbledon account within the first three minutes. First, Luke Moore provided him with a clear sight of goal just inside the penalty area, but he scuffed his shot and then Sheringham headed over the crossbar from close range after a Callum Kennedy corner had fallen kindly for him.
Wimbledon produced an opening spell of eye-catching football with one early move involving Smith and Porter, in particular, standing out. After a flowing move, the latter’s teasing cross from the right picked out Sheringham, but no one was able to get on the end of his header back across goal. The hosts were finding a lot of space down the right flank and Porter again broke free down that side, but his cross evaded Sheringham’s reach.
Despite making the early play, Wimbledon were on the receiving end of a sucker-punch in the 16th minute as Scunthorpe opened the scoring with virtually their first attack. It came about when Dons goalkeeper Ross Worner failed to hold an Eddie Nolan cross and Sam Winnall got the final touch to steer home. Wimbledon recovered their composure though after that setback and they should have been level in the 22nd minute when Scunthorpe defender Niall Canavan was adjudged to have handled a Callum Kennedy cross by referee Richard Clark. That offered Sheringham a great chance of notching his first Wimbledon goal, but he struck his spot-kick too close to Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe and the penalty was well saved.
Wimbledon were made to rue that miss when Scunthorpe doubled their advantage in the 31st minute. After the hosts failed to clear a routine cross, Andy Welsh delivered the ball back with interest and towering striker Chris Iwelumo powered home a header from close-range. Wimbledon’s best chance of a response again came down the right when the impressive Porter again showed Scunthorpe left-back Andy Dawson a clean pair of heels and his subsequent cross was almost flicked in by Smith.
On the balance of play, the 2-0 half-time scoreline was particularly harsh on Wimbledon, but there would definitely be no way back for the hosts if they continued to be so wasteful in attack.
Wimbledon struggled to make an impression as an attacking force in the first 15 minutes of the second-half and it could effectively have been game over when a cross from Terry Hawkridge picked out Winnall, who headed wide with a great chance to double his tally. Worner also had to react quickly to stop the same player yet again.
Neal Ardley was about to make a double substitution just after the hour when the Dons found a way back into the match in great style. There looked to be little danger when Smith picked the ball up 20 yards out, but he produced a superb angled drive that left Slocombe with no chance. The introductions of Chris Arthur and Jack Midson for Callum Kennedy and Charlie Sheringham added further impetus and it was now a completely different game as Scunthorpe were forced to defend in numbers.
The increase in tempo from the hosts paid off 15 minutes from time when Pell struck his second of the season in emphatic style. It all started when Porter’s cross fell kindly for Midson, but when his effort was inadvertently blocked by Smith, Pell pounced on the loose ball and fired home an unstoppable shot from an acute angle. It was now end-to-end stuff with Wimbledon far from resting on their laurels and they came so close to being in front for the first time when the impressive Pell found Porter and Slocombe needed two attempts to grasp a fierce drive. The Dons came even closer when Porter returned the favour for Pell and his shot was tipped over the bar by Slocombe. Scunthorpe continued to threaten at the other end though and it needed Weston to make a heroic block to stop Winnall’s goal-bound volley.
Wimbledon kept going though and they were rewarded in the 87th minute when another substitute Kevin Sainte-Luce made a big impact. The Frenchman’s dazzling run created space and his pull-back fell nicely for Arthur, who powered home an excellent winner from just outside the area.
It was a fine end to a pulsating match at the Cherry Red Records Stadium and it certainly offered plenty of hope that Wimbledon can make further progress this season.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy (Chris Arthur), Sammy Moore, Andy Frampton, Rhys Weston, George Porter (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Harry Pell, Michael Smith, Charlie Sheringham (Jack Midson), Luke Moore.