Wimbledon came up short in their bid for a fourth successive league victory this afternoon with top-of-the table Chesterfield proving to be too strong on the day.
The Dons, aiming to achieve such a feat for the first time since October, 2011, succumbed to a 2-0 defeat with goals from Gary Roberts and Sam Hird doing the damage.
Though Wimbledon refused to lie down and could have made a game of it with the likes of Jim Fenlon coming close, Chesterfield showed just why they’re top and were full value for the win.
Neal Ardley decided to select the same starting 11 that won at York City last Saturday as Wimbledon aimed to extend their unbeaten league run.
Of course, it was going to be a lot tougher for the Dons than at York with Paul Cook’s side having won five matches out of six to go top of League 2. The Spireites were also, unsurprisingly, unchanged after their unbeaten run, which they maintained with a narrow win against rock-bottom Accrington Stanley last Saturday. However, Chesterfield had boosted their firepower with the signing of former Coventry striker Gary McSheffrey and he was on the bench for the hosts.
Wimbledon were relieved to see a linesman’s flag go up in the sixth minute when Chesterfield’s top scorer Marc Richards slotted home a teasing cross from Ritchie Humphreys, but the striker was narrowly offside. All the early threat from Chesterfield came down Wimbledon’s right side and Humphreys created more panic when he put in a cross that was only half cleared and Dons goalkeeper Ross Worner had to get down well to save a powerful drive from Jimmy Ryan. Wimbledon had barely been able to get out of their own half in the first 15 minutes and Jay O’Shea also shot just wide after a smart turn.
Wimbledon put together their best move so far in the 18th minute when Jim Fenlon and Luke Moore combined to find in-form Michael Smith and he needed no second invitation to strike a decent effort from 20 yards that required Chesterfield goalkeeper Tommy Lee to make a fine save. Wimbledon had gradually come into it by the midway point of the first-half with Harry Pell and Sammy Moore starting to gain a fair share of possession in midfield. And the Dons could have been in front in the 28th minute when a defensive lapse from Chesterfield allowed Smith to go clean through, but Lee pulled off an excellent double save. Wimbledon paid the price for those misses when Chesterfield opened the scoring after half an hour with a goal that was fortuitous in its creation. An attempted clearance from Fenlon bounced into the path of O’Shea and he put over a fantastic cross that Roberts volleyed home emphatically.
The response was good from Wimbledon as they enjoyed their best spell of the match so far just before half-time. George Porter created havoc down the right and put over a cross that fell nicely for Smith, but he shot over from close range, though the linesman’s flag was already up. Though Chesterfield deserved their 1-0 half-time lead on the balance of play, there had been enough chances for Wimbledon to offer encouragement for the visitors in the second-half.
Wimbledon were fortunate to still be in the game though five minutes into the second-half when Richards missed a great chance to double the home side’s advantage. Tendayi Darikwa broke free down the right and sent over a cross that picked out Richards, who was completely unmarked in the box, but he headed over with the goal gaping. There was no reprieve for Wimbledon in the 53rd minute though when Chesterfield earned a 2-0 lead. Wimbledon were incensed by the decision of referee Eddie Ilderton to award a free-kick though for handball against Luke Moore, but they allowed Hird too much space from the subsequent cross and he headed home a fine delivery from Roberts. At this point, Wimbledon were struggling to contain Chesterfield as they showed exactly why they are top of the table. Richards powered through after a fine team move, but his fierce strike bounced off a post.
Neal Ardley made a double substitution just after the hour as he looked to Chris Arthur and Jack Midson to offer more attacking threat with Porter and Luke Moore making way. There was no let-up from the rampant hosts and Humphreys shot just wide with an ambitious shot from an acute angle. The Dons twice came so close to finding a way back into the match in the 72nd minute. First Jim Fenlon produced an excellent run and shot that required Lee to make a full stretch save. The Chesterfield goalkeeper was then beaten from the subsequent corner after Midson had flicked on Alan Bennett’s header, but the ball was cleared off the line.
The chances continued to come for Wimbledon and Francomb was foiled by Lee after going clean through and that proved to be the midfielder’s last contribution as he made way for Charlie Strutton. Strutton so nearly got one back for Wimbledon, but his effort was cleared off the line and his side could at least take heart from a respectable performance against a side who fully merit their top-of-the table position.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Jim Fenlon, Sammy Moore, Andy Frampton, Alan Bennett, George Francomb (Charlie Strutton), Harry Pell, Michael Smith, Luke Moore (Jack Midson), George Porter (Chris Arthur).