Wimbledon suffered their third successive defeat this afternoon with a performance at Fratton Park that perhaps deserved more on the day.
The Dons had plenty of possession and more opportunities than the hosts, but Ryan Taylor’s second-half header was enough to claim a 1-0 win for Pompey.
Alan Bennett came close to an equaliser when he was denied by Pompey goalkeeper Trevor Carson and Chris Arthur had a last-gasp effort cleared off the line, but it was not to be for Wimbledon and the defeat means that next Saturday’s home match against Bury now assumes greater importance. There was also a place on the bench for the first time for 18-year-old George Oakley after his impressive season for the Under-21s.
Neal Ardley made three changes from the side that started against Rochdale with one of those enforced as Barry Fuller missed out due to a knee injury. That meant a recall for Jim Fenlon with Will Antwi and Luke Moore also returning in place of Chris Arthur and Harry Pell. It was a reshuffle to Neal Ardley’s preferred 3-5-2 formation with George Francomb deployed on the right and Fenlon on the left.
Playing towards 2000 travelling Dons fans in the first-half, Wimbledon started brightly as they aimed to exploit the weaknesses of a Portsmouth side that had lost seven previous home league games this season. Wimbledon appeared to have justified claims for a penalty in the second minute when Marcos Painter brought down Danny Hylton. However, referee Stuart Attwell decided to award just a free-kick despite vociferous appeals from the Wimbledon players that the foul was inside the area. Wimbledon came so close to opening the scoring a couple of minutes later when Charlie Wyke got behind Portsmouth’s defence and his subsequent shot flashed just wide of the far post.
Ross Worner had his first save to make just before the half hour when he beat out a long-range strike from Ricky Holmes, who had been a thorn in Wimbledon’s side on many previous occasions during his days at Chelmsford City and Barnet.
Wimbledon’s early promise had faded by that point as they struggled for attacking fluency. Perhaps the main criticism was that they aimed too many long balls in the direction of their forwards and it was tough to pick out targets with such a strong wind behind them. At the other end, Fenlon provided further evidence of his defensive qualities with a fine last-gasp clearance to stop Portsmouth’s attackers getting on the end of a teasing cross from former England international Nicky Shorey. Then Thery Racon drove just wide with a half volley after the Dons had only half cleared a corner.
Wimbledon enjoyed a very good spell of possession before the break with Aaron Morris and Sammy Moore starting to dictate matters in midfield. Francomb, who had an encouraging first-half down the right, beat his marker superbly a few minutes before half-time and found Hylton in the area, but his shot was charged down. Wimbledon had perhaps shaded the first-half in terms of possession and chances, albeit without testing Portsmouth goalkeeper Trevor Carson.
The Dons had it all to do six minutes after half-time though when Portsmouth opened the scoring through Ryan Taylor. Daniel Alfei sent over a teasing cross from the right that found Taylor unmarked and his looping header left with Worner with little chance. That produced a spirited response from Wimbledon as they pushed their opponents back, but the visitors needed captain Alan Bennett to produce an excellent tackle to stop Jed Wallace going clean through.
Wimbledon came so close to an equaliser in the 65th minute when they almost made the most of their own set-piece opportunity. Francomb sent in a great cross from the right that was met with a powerful header from Bennett, but Pompey goalkeeper Carson reacted superbly to make a point-blank save.
Neal Ardley decided to go for broke in the 71st minute when he made a treble substitution with Kevin Sainte-Luce, Chris Arthur and Jack Midson introduced for George Francomb, Jim Fenlon and Danny Hylton. Yet again, the Dons came so close to netting an equaliser 15 minutes from time when Antwi met Sammy Moore’s free-kick with a glancing header, but his effort was cleared off the line by Painter.
The remainder of this match was played in the Portsmouth half and that almost earned an equaliser when Bennett met Sammy Moore’s cross with an acrobatic kick, but his fine effort was just over. Then in injury-time, Arthur had an effort cleared off the line, but Portsmouth just held on during a frantic finale.
AFC Wimbledon: Ross Worner, Alan Bennett, George Francomb (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Sammy Moore, Danny Hylton (Jack Midson), Luke Moore, Will Antwi, Jim Fenlon (Chris Arthur), Charlie Wyke, Aaron Morris, Darren Jones.