Wimbledon maintained their encouraging start to 2014/15 in stunning style tonight with a brilliant second-half strike from George Francomb earning victory.
Francomb found the top corner with a lovely curled effort after Sean Rigg had touched a free-kick into his path and a 1-0 win was fully deserved as the Dons denied a Southend side who had not conceded a goal before tonight. Indeed, a third successive win at Roots Hall for Wimbledon was arguably their most impressive as they took the game to Southend for spells in the game.
Neal Ardley unsurprisingly decided to name an unchanged starting 11 after Saturday’s impressive victory at Luton Town. The Dons were searching for a third successive victory at Roots Hall, but this visit to Roots Hall promised to be particularly tough with Phil Brown’s men having won both their League 2 matches so far.
Wimbledon, playing in their new third strip of yellow shirts and black shorts for the first time, were fortunate not to be behind in the fourth minute when Myles Weston got behind the defence, but he dragged his shot wide. In response, Wimbledon threatened through Francomb, who tried his luck with a drive from 20 yards that Southend goalkeeper Daniel Bentley was forced to turn away.
In an entertaining first 20 minutes that ebbed and flowed, Conor Clifford found space on the edge of the area and curled an effort just wide of a post. However, Wimbledon showed signs of promise in their attacking play with wide men Francomb and Sean Rigg starting to get into the game. One excellent move saw Barry Fuller and Francomb combine down the right and the latter’s cross picked out Bayo Akinfenwa just inside the area, but he fired over the crossbar.
It was a hugely contrasting first half hour to what transpired at Kenilworth Road as both sides attempted to play attractive football. Though Southend had an aerial threat, they mixed it up with the pace and skill of Shaquile Coulthirst causing problems on the ground. First, the striker was clean through, but he shot too close to James Shea and the Dons goalkeeper pulled off a fine reflex save, before the same player drilled wide with an even more presentable chance.
For the rest of the first-half, Wimbledon coped admirably with Southend’s threat, albeit without mounting a worthwhile attack themselves. That was in stark contrast to the first half hour when Wimbledon looked so promising.
With Wimbledon having coped well with Southend’s threat in the first-half, Neal Ardley made no half-time changes and the visitors had a chance to break the deadlock seven minutes after the break. Francomb swung over a decent cross from the left and Adam Barrett rose highest in the box, but his header was over the crossbar.
Southend offered nothing to threaten Wimbledon in the opening spell of the first-half and the outcome perhaps depended upon how adventurous the Dons were prepared to be. The answer to that question was answered in spectacular fashion on the hour. Akinfenwa’s sheer presence forced Luke Prosser to make a high challenge that referee Lee Collins deemed worthy of a free-kick. What followed was an absolutely stunning set-piece. Rigg touched the ball into Francomb’s path and the winger bent a superb effort around the wall and into the top corner to send the travelling Dons support - 542 in total - into ecstasy.
The Dons threatened to seal the contest after breaking the deadlock, first when Rigg found space but shot too close to Bentley, before Dannie Bulman’s fierce strike was tipped wide by Bentley. Neal Ardley decided to make a double change midway through the second-half with Harry Pell and Kevin Sainte-Luce replacing George Francomb and Matt Tubbs.
Wimbledon twice survived by the skin of their teeth as Southend finally cranked up the pressure in the final quarter of the match. James Shea made a fine point-blank save to deny Jack Payne and then Barry Fuller pulled off a miraculous recovery to get back and clear Myles Weston’s effort off the line
Southend’s attempts to get back into it appeared increasingly in vain during the latter stages and Wimbledon should have sealed it in injury-time. Substitute Ade Azeez broke through, but his pass was behind Pell and when it was returned back to him, his shot was too close to Bentley. It did not matter in the end though and Wimbledon were full value for their impressive victory on the night.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Alan Bennett, George Francomb (Harry Pell), Sammy Moore, Matt Tubbs (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Bayo Akinfenwa (Ade Azeez), Sean Rigg, Callum Kennedy, Adam Barrett.