Wimbledon slipped to their first away league defeat this season after late heartbreak at Accrington this afternoon.
A James Gray strike seven minutes from time earned a 1-0 victory for the hosts that extended Wimbledon’s win-less run against Accrington to seven. Ironically, the winner came at a time when Wimbledon had threatened to change their rotten run against Stanley as they created plenty of chances in a much-improved second-half. It had been a game of few opportunities, but the Dons had looked like winning it late on, before Accrington delivered that killer blow.
Neal Ardley decided to make two changes to his starting line-up and they were significant ones for the AFC Wimbledon Academy with a pair of home-grown talents making their full league debuts. Nineteen-year-old Tom Beere, who was a second-half substitute at Carlisle, was joined in the side by 17-year-old Ben Harrison. Jake Nicholson and Callum Kennedy both therefore had to settle for places on the bench.
Wimbledon had to ensure there was no repeat of the poor starts that cost them so dear in their previous two visits to Accrington – and they had a good chance to increase anxiety around the Store First Stadium after James Beattie’s departure as manager. Sean Rigg, who was so influential at Carlisle last Saturday, put through a lovely ball for Matt Tubbs, but he sliced his finish wide. However, that did not prove a catalyst for Wimbledon to establish early superiority as and it needed Harrison to make a fine last-ditch clearance to stop Adam Buxton’s teasing cross from finding an Accrington target.
It was backs to the wall for Wimbledon in the first 15 minutes with an Accrington side who had Paul Stephenson in temporary charge on the front foot.Rob Atkinson headed just wide from a corner, before Luke Joyce shot wide from the edge of the area. Wimbledon had struggled to get out of their own half in the first half hour, though the Dons had stood firm in defence and limited Accrington to very little. At the other end, Beere had showed some promising touches and he almost put Dannie Bulman through after good approach play by Bayo Akinfenwa.
There had been nothing to enthuse about from the Dons in an attacking sense before half-time and they had to show defensive resilience to go in level at the break.
Wimbledon sprung to life as an attacking force 10 minutes after half-time and it so nearly earned the opener. A clever corner from Tom Beere found Matt Tubbs and his flick was diverted onto the crossbar by Accrington goalkeeper Joe Lumley. The Dons took plenty of encouragement from that and Beere came close to a goal on his full debut when his powerful drive was beaten out by Lumley after good work by Tubbs.
Neal Ardley made his first change with 25 minutes left as George Francomb was introduced for Rigg. It had been much better from Wimbledon in the second-half and the substitution showed that the Dons were far from settling for a point. However, James Gray showed that Wimbledon still needed to be careful as he shot just wide after making space for himself on the edge of the area.
With 20 minutes left it was hard to predict the outcome of this game, the Dons threatening again when a flick from Akinfenwa put Tubbs through, but he shot straight at Lumley. A double change followed for Wimbledon with Beere hobbling off and replaced by Kevin Sainte-Luce and Ade Azeez coming on for Bayo Akinfenwa. Beere could certainly be well pleased with his full league debut as he produced a promising performance before departing prematurely.
Wimbledon created a great chance when Sammy Moore picked out Tubbs in space in the area, but he curled just wide and the Dons were made to pay for that miss shortly afterwards. Wimbledon were caught square at the back and when a through ball from Buxton picked out Gray, the in-form striker made no mistake with a clinical finish.
The visitors threw everyone forward in a determined effort to salvage a draw and reward the 212 Dons fans who made the trip, but a header by Alan Bennett was well saved by Lumley and that meant it was another fruitless trip to Accrington for Wimbledon.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Alan Bennett, Sammy Moore, Matt Tubbs, Bayo Akinfenwa (Adebayo Azeez), Sean Rigg (George Francomb), Tom Beere (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Adam Barrett, Ben Harrison.