Wimbledon’s late rally came too late at Newport County this afternoon as they paid the price for conceding sloppy goals in South Wales.
By the time Bayo Akinfenwa scored in the 70th minute, Wimbledon were already 3-0 down with the killer second goal coming just 20 seconds into the second-half. It could have been much closer than the 4-1 final score after late Dons pressure, but that didn't mask Wimbledon’s defensive deficiencies on the day.
Wimbledon made just one change to their starting 11 with Matt Tubbs coming straight back in after suspension and Ade Azeez on the bench. Neal Ardley had talked in the build-up about his side having to be ready for a battle at Rodney Parade and they faced a stern examination early on.
It could have been 1-0 just a few minutes in as Lee Minshull, one of several former Wimbledon players in the Newport line-up, almost got on the end of a cross from Robbie Willmott. There was even more relief in the Wimbledon ranks when they almost gifted Newport the advantage. Adam Barrett got caught dwelling on the ball by Chris Zebroski, but he was only shown a yellow card for bringing down the Newport striker because Alan Bennett was deemed to be a covering defender. Willmott forced James Shea into a full stretch save from the subsequent free-kick and Wimbledon desperately needed to earn a greater share of possession.
The Dons forced Newport goalkeeper Joe Day into his first save a minute later when Dannie Bulman picked out Sean Rigg, who had his shot turned around for a corner. Then Bayo Akinfenwa’s header from a George Francomb corner was deflected into the arms of Day. Just when Wimbledon appeared to be turning the screw, they fell behind - and it was the most basic of goals that they conceded. A corner was lofted towards the back post in the 18th minute and former Wimbledon defender Ismail Yakubu was left unmarked to power home a header.
It could have been worse for Wimbledon as Shea was twice fortunate to get away with errors. First, his throw out went straight to Willmott, but he blazed wide from an acute angle when perhaps a cross would have been a better option. Then the Wimbledon goalkeeper blasted a clearance at Alan Bennett, but the ball rebounded to safety. At the other end, the Dons fashioned a rare chance before half-time when Ben Harrison sent over a lovely cross that Rigg headed just over the crossbar. Wimbledon needed to offer more of a sustained threat in the second-half if they were to get anything out of this game.
The Dons had a mountain to climb though when they conceded a second goal just 20 seconds into the second-half. Though Shea reached a through ball before Zebroski could get there, he could only divert the ball into Joe Pigott’s path and the striker on loan from Charlton made no mistake. With Wimbledon having made little impression after the break, Neal Ardley made a double change before the hour. Callum Kennedy and Ade Azeez were both introduced for Ben Harrison and George Francomb. Azeez immediately offered a different option with his pace in behind and he latched onto a through ball from Bulman, but he was unable to get his shot on target.
It got worse for Wimbledon in the 65th minute as Newport scored again with a goal that had more than a touch of fortune about it. Pigott found space just inside the area and his strike took a wicked deflection off Barrett and left Shea with no chance. The Dons at least refused to give in and it was Akinfenwa who led the charge. Newport goalkeeper Joe Day made a fine double save to deny the striker, but there was no stopping Akinfenwa shortly afterwards. A corner from Kennedy was knocked back to the left-back and he sent over a fine cross that Akinfenwa headed into the roof of the net.
With 20 minutes still to play, all was certainly not lost for Wimbledon and Kevin Sainte-Luce entered the fray in place of Rigg. The Dons started to make life tough for Newport with Akinfenwa proving to be a menace in the air. A fine header across goal from Akinfenwa almost picked out Azeez and then he headed just wide from another corner. We could have been set for a grandstand finish if Tubbs had converted a late chance, but Newport killed them off with a breakaway goal from substitute Aaron O’Connor.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Ben Harrison (Callum Kennedy), Sammy Moore, Adam Barrett, Alan Bennett, Sean Rigg (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Dannie Bulman, Bayo Akinfenwa, Matt Tubbs, George Francomb (Ade Azeez).