The Dons earned their first home victory since 16 November with a late Jack Midson winner sealing a memorable fightback.
It was a match that Midson is unlikely to forget in a hurry with Exeter’s opener credited to the Dons striker, but he ended up the hero for Wimbledon as they came from behind to win 2-1. It was a hard-fought victory for Wimbledon as Exeter came out of the blocks quickly to take the lead and posed plenty of threat in attack throughout.
Wimbledon made two changes to their starting line-up after the gritty draw at League 2 leaders Scunthorpe with the most notable being a debut for Darren Jones in place of the injured Andy Frampton. The other change was not enforced with Luke Moore handed a recall in place of George Francomb.
The visitors served early warning of their danger when Matt Grimes forced Ross Worner into a decent near post save with a powerful drive from an acute angle. However, Exeter’s travelling support of 622 fans did not have to wait too long to celebrate taking the lead with a goal that had more than a touch of fortune. Grimes whipped in a corner with pace in the fourth minute and the ball deflected off Jack Midson and left Worner with no chance. It could have been worse for Wimbledon just a few minutes later when an Aaron Davies cross picked out Jimmy Keohane, but he headed over from close range.
At this stage, the Dons were struggling to cope with Exeter’s fluent attacking football and it had been a far from easy introduction for new boy Jones. Indeed, Wimbledon needed to step-up a gear if they were to avoid falling 2-0 down for the second successive home match. However, the hosts did start to show signs of a turnaround with their first spell of pressure almost putting them on level terms. Callum Kennedy was the architect as he latched onto a half cleared corner and sent over a teasing cross that Jones met with a header, but Exeter goalkeeper Artur Krysiak denied him a debut goal. The Exeter number one was a relieved man midway through the first-half when he made a hash of collecting Kennedy’s corner, but the ball bounced just wide.
Neal Ardley was forced into a change in the 28th minute when Kennedy had to come off with an injury and that meant Chris Arthur was introduced. Wimbledon had their best chance of the first-half in the 32nd minute when Jones headed Sammy Moore’s corner across the face of the goal, but Will Antwi headed it straight at Krysiak from close range. The Dons certainly started to enjoy more possession and chances as the first-half wore on and they were celebrating their first home goal of 2014 in the 37th minute. Charlie Wyke was the instigator as he chased a lost cause and powered past his marker, before sending over a cross that Luke Moore bundled over the line for the equaliser.
The Dons were very fortunate not to be behind again five minutes after the restart when Tom Nichols got behind their defence and put over a cross that appeared to leave substitute John O’Flynn with a simple task, but he blazed over from close range. Playing towards the EcoHouse End in the second-half, Wimbledon gradually started to turn the screw as the hour mark approached with Chris Arthur’s pace down the left offering a useful outlet. However, Exeter maintained a big threat as an attacking force and they came so close to regaining the lead 20 minutes after the break. A half clearance fell nicely for Grimes 25 yards out and his curler flashed just wide with Worner beaten.
With Wimbledon having failed to threaten by the midway point of the second-half, Neal Ardley decided to introduce the pace and trickery of Kevin Sainte-Luce with Luke Moore the man to make way. That had a galvanising effect on Wimbledon as the winger’s impact whipped up the enthusiasm of the home support. And Sainte-Luce provided the edge Wimbledon were looking for 16 minutes from time. Latching onto a Barry Fuller pass, Sainte-Luce turned his marker inside out and delivered a cross that Midson steered home.
Wimbledon were content to hold onto what they had after that and Neal Ardley’s men did a professional job of denying Exeter a path back into the match. Indeed, they held on quite comfortably in the end and Wimbledon can certainly look forward to Tuesday night’s visit of Hartlepool with a lot more enthusiasm.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy (Chris Arthur), Alan Bennett, Darren Jones, Will Antwi, Sammy Moore, Harry Pell, Charlie Wyke, Jack Midson (George Francomb), Luke Moore (Kevin Sainte-Luce).