A superb strike from Matt Tubbs was enough to secure Wimbledon’s first League 2 win of 2014/15 as the Dons earned a deserved victory at Kenilworth Road.
Neal Ardley’s men were full value for the 1-0 win as they defied early Luton pressure and struck in clinical fashion through that man Tubbs (pictured left above), who made it three goals in as many games for Wimbledon. Both Tubbs and Bayo Akinfenwa showed exactly why Neal Ardley worked so hard to bring them to the club as they linked-up so effectively and provided an attacking edge that was lacking at times last season.It was a fine reward for the 690 Dons fans who provided great support among the 9,000-plus crowd at Luton.
Neal Ardley made two changes to his starting line-up with Callum Kennedy replacing the injured Jack Smith at left-back and Adam Barrett preferred at centre-back to Mark Phillips. It was Kennedy’s first League 2 start since January and it was also a significant day for 19-year-old Tom Beere as he was selected on the bench.
As expected, the Hatters faithful pumped up the volume in Luton’s first home league match since promotion back to the Football League. With a vociferous support behind them, the hosts were out of the blocks quickly and penned Wimbledon back early on. Though one or two penalty appeals seemed a little desperate and were waved away by referee Oliver Langford, Luton exerted plenty of route one pressure with John Still’s men getting long balls and crosses into the box at every opportunity. These were well dealt with in the early exchanges though with on-loan Gillingham defender Barrett adding much-needed height to the back line.
Wimbledon gradually started to come into it and they had a good spell midway through the first-half. First, Barrett rose highest in the box to meet a cross, but his header was over the crossbar and then Bayo Akinfenwa volleyed wide after getting on the end of a long throw-in from Kennedy. In a spell that offered plenty of encouragement for Wimbledon with their forwards starting to offer good threat, Matt Tubbs found space and shot over with a decent 25-yard effort. It was noticeable that Wimbledon’s wide men George Francomb and Sean Rigg started to come into the match with Akinfenwa’s good hold-up play offering a platform to build attacks.
Though Luton’s aerial bombardment had faded a little, they remained a danger when balls were put into the box and James Shea was forced to make a good save to turn away a fierce drive from Luke Guttridge. However, after the opening exchanges Luton had only offered fleeting moments of threat and Wimbledon snatched the lead in the 41stminute. It was a goal that yet again provided evidence that Akinfenwa and Tubbs are going to be a potent attacking threat this season. There appeared to be little danger when a long ball was pumped forward by James Shea, but Akinfenwa headed it on perfectly for Tubbs and he smashed home emphatically.
It had been a very satisfactory first-half for Wimbledon as they had weathered an early storm and offered an attacking edge that resulted in a well-worked goal before the break.
The Dons had a great chance to extend their advantage within two minutes of the second-half and it was that man Akinfenwa at the heart of it again. This time the Wimbledon striker was on the end of a lovely ball in from George Francomb, but he headed against a post from close-range. There was a scare for Wimbledon minutes later though when Guttridge met a long ball in, but he headed just wide with plenty of Luton fans thinking it had gone the other side of the post.
It was certainly end to end stuff around the hour mark, but Wimbledon had another chance to earn the cushion of a second when Tubbs again got the better of his marker with lovely movement, but this time he was denied by Luton goalkeeper Mark Tyler. That was far from an isolated attack for the Dons after half-time as they had chances to end the match as a contest. Good link-up play down the left between Sean Rigg and Callum Kennedy resulted in the latter just denied by Tyler and then Akinfenwa shot over after Alan Bennett had flicked on Kennedy’s lovely cross.
Neal Ardley made a change with 16 minutes to play as Ade Azeez came on for Tubbs to make his first League 2 appearance since joining Wimbledon. Though the Dons had dealt so well with everything that Luton had thrown at them, they could not afford to leave the door open at the back and Paul Benson fired just over after more pressure from the hosts. Neal Ardley made a double change with 10 minutes left in an effort to bolster the midfield with Harry Pell and Kevin Sainte-Luce entering the fray for wingers Francomb and Rigg.
Luton’s only threat so far had come through a direct approach and the Dons were a touch fortunate when Steve McNulty headed a Jake Howells corner over the bar.
However, Luton never really troubled Wimbledon in the final stages and the visitors were full value for a victory that sets them up well for an away trip to Southend on Tuesday.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Alan Bennett, George Francomb (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Sammy Moore, Matt Tubbs (Ade Azeez), Bayo Akinfenwa, Sean Rigg (Harry Pell), Callum Kennedy, Adam Barrett.