Wimbledon slumped to a first home league defeat since August as they failed to build on Matt Tubbs’ opener after just 19 seconds.
Cambridge came from behind to earn a 2-1 win with former Dons loanee Kwesi Appiah and Liam Hughes turning it around for the visitors. It had all looked so promising for Wimbledon after a great start, but they struggled to make much impression in attack after Hughes gave Cambridge a second-half lead.
Neal Ardley made just one change to his starting line-up with Sean Rigg coming straight back in after suspension for Ade Azeez. Jake Goodman, who joined on loan from Millwall on Thursday, was named among the substitutes.
An impeccable minute’s silence was observed to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War and spectators barely had time to sit back in their seats again before Wimbledon were celebrating an opening goal. Bayo Akinfenwa headed on for his strike partner Matt Tubbs, who was quick off the mark to get there first and round Cambridge goalkeeper Chris Dunn, before slotting home after just 19 seconds.
Wimbledon’s number nine had recently ended his goal drought with two in the FA Cup replay against York City and he took aim with an ambitious effort shortly afterwards that was this time well wide. With Wimbledon making all the early play, an equalising goal came completely out of the blue. It was a familiar face who scored it with former Dons loanee Kwesi Appiah coming back to haunt his former club. There appeared little danger when a long ball was only half cleared by Alan Bennett, but Appiah struck a wonderful 25-yard effort that left James Shea with no chance. Despite such a cracking individual goal, Appiah refused to celebrate against the club he served well at the end of last season and that will have earned him plenty of respect from the Wimbledon faithful.
The Dons recovered well from this setback and a great ball by Dannie Bulman gave Akinfenwa a sight of goal through the middle, but he delayed his shot and the chance was gone. Wimbledon came so close before the half hour mark when Akinfenwa’s flick-on fell nicely for Rigg and he produced a clever lob that Dunn just managed to tip wide. However, Cambridge showed a real threat with shots from long-range and the visitors so nearly snatched the lead with a powerful drive from Sullay Kaikai that flashed just wide.
At this stage, the match had settled down into a tight encounter of few chances after such an eventful start and Wimbledon were struggling to recapture their earlier high tempo as half-time approached.
Cambridge started the brighter after half-time with Sullay Kaikai, who only signed on loan from Crystal Palace on Thursday, proving to be a constant threat. Kaikai threatened to do it all by himself just minutes into the second-half with a marauding run that ended with a shot deflected just wide. The Dons should have gone in front 11 minutes after the break when Akinfenwa uncharacteristically missed a gilt-edged chance. Rigg produced a powerful surge down the left and his deep cross fell for Akinfenwa just six yards out, but he fired into the side netting from close range.
Barely a minute later and Cambridge took the lead for the first time. Kaikai sent over a teasing free-kick from Wimbledon’s right side and Liam Hughes bundled the ball over the line at the second attempt after Shea had initially saved.
Neal Ardley made a double change 25 minutes from time in an effort to change matters with George Francomb and Ade Azeez replacing Frankie Sutherland and Sean Rigg. However, the Dons could have been killed off shortly afterwards when Ryan Bird latched onto a long ball over the top and cracked a fierce drive that flashed just wide of Shea’s near post.
With the game approaching its latter stages, Wimbledon were struggling to mount anything as an attacking force. Akinfenwa attempted to breathe life into the hosts with a fine run and pass to Barry Fuller, who sent over a lovely cross to the back post, but no one was on the end of it.
But Wimbledon struggled to fashion anything of note after that as Cambridge comfortably held on and the Dons will be aiming to reignite their season in the FA Cup at Wycombe next Sunday.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jack Smith (Callum Kennedy), Sammy Moore, Adam Barrett, Alan Bennett, Sean Rigg (Ade Azeez), Dannie Bulman, Bayo Akinfenwa, Matt Tubbs, Frankie Sutherland (George Francomb).