Wimbledon slipped to another home defeat in disappointing fashion this afternoon with a second-half Stevenage onslaught proving to be decisive.
Taking a first-half lead on home turf proved to Wimbledon’s Achilles heel once again as Stevenage turned it around to earn a 3-2 win. It had all seemed so promising after Matt Tubbs (pictured) gave Wimbledon the lead, but Graham Westley’s men equalised just before half-time and that provided the platform for the visitors to dominate the second-half.
Neal Ardley initially selected an unchanged starting line-up this afternoon, but a toe injury to George Francomb got worse in the pre-match warm-up and that meant Kevin Sainte-Luce started with Tom Beere named as substitute. Two Dons academy products were therefore on the bench with 17-year-old Ben Harrison also named as a substitute for a second successive Saturday.
Stevenage arrived at the Cherry Red Records Stadium with two Dons heroes among their ranks as Dave Beasant and Jason Goodliffe are now employed as part of Westley’s coaching team. Dave Beasant’s son Sam, who was in goal for Stevenage, was so nearly picking the ball out of the net inside two minutes. Following a swift start from the Dons, a lovely cross from the left by Callum Kennedy picked out Bayo Akinfenwa and he so nearly notched his first Wimbledon goal with a header that beat Beasant, but bounced off a post.
It was far from a fluent first half hour from the Dons though as Stevenage grew into the match and James Shea was forced to save at his near post after Cameron Lancaster had got on the end of a corner. However, Wimbledon fashioned the best chance so far in the 20th minute and they could not have wanted it to fall to a better man. Akinfenwa created havoc on the edge of the area and his flick fell nicely for Tubbs, but he uncharacteristically fired wide from close-range. It was far from one-way traffic though as Stevenage created moments of danger themselves, most notably when Simon Walton curled just wide.
However, with Tubbs leading Wimbledon’s attack this season the Dons will always be dangerous and the in-form marksman was never going to pass up another gilt-edged chance. This time Sainte-Luce was the instigator as he won the ball and charged down the right, before setting up Tubbs and he finished clinically from six yards. Holding onto a lead at home is proving to be a tough task for Wimbledon this season though and Stevenage drew level in the 42nd minute. Walton struck a fierce free-kick from 30 yards that James Shea tipped onto the crossbar, but Dean Wells met the rebound first to head home emphatically.
On the balance of play, a half-time score of 1-1 was probably fair, but it was just a shame from a Wimbledon perspective that they could not hold onto their lead until half-time.
With Wimbledon having produced an encouraging first-half in spells, Neal Ardley made no changes at half-time. However, it was Stevenage offering the most threat after the restart and Walton had another decent shooting opportunity from a free-kick, but this time he shot over from 25 yards. Neal Ardley made a change 10 minutes after the break with Mark Phillips entering the fray for Kevin Sainte-Luce.
The Dons fell behind in fortuitous fashion just minutes later. There appeared to be little danger when Cameron Lancaster picked up the ball on the left flank, but his sweet delivery – surely intended as a cross – deceived James Shea and found the top corner. In an effort to turn the tide, Neal Ardley sent on Ade Azeez for Callum Kennedy with 20 minutes left. However, Wimbledon had a mountain to climb 16 minutes from time when Stevenage earned the cushion of a third. A routine cross was swung in from the Stevenage left and Charlie Lee met the ball with a thumping low header that left Shea with no chance.
That goal effectively sealed it for Stevenage as Wimbledon struggled to muster anything of note in response. Sammy Moore blasted over the crossbar after Tubbs had played a free-kick into his path, before Tubbs was denied by Beasant. However, Wimbledon did strike back when Barrett’s header was saved and substitute Azeez struck his first Dons goal from close-range. That signalled a late rally from Wimbledon and Bulman was denied by Beasant in the sixth minute of injury-time. It was not to be for Wimbledon though and they will now be hoping for a confidence booster in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy before the long trip to Carlisle next Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy (Ade Azeez), Sammy Moore, Adam Barrett, Alan Bennett, Sean Rigg, Dannie Bulman, Bayo Akinfenwa, Matt Tubbs, Kevin Sainte-Luce (Mark Phillips).