Wimbledon once again saved their best for Pompey with Neal Ardley’s men rising to the challenge on Boxing Day to earn an impressive victory.
Frankie Sutherland and Matt Tubbs landed the knockout blows for a 2-0 win that was fully deserved and the contest had been well and truly sealed before Dan Butler was red-carded 21 minutes from time.
It was a pleasure to watch for the 968 Dons fans in attendance as Wimbledon made it three wins out of four in style. Sutherland silenced the Pompey chimes early on with a great goal that paved the way to a victory that frustrated the majority of the 17,558 crowd. It was every bit as impressive as last season's 4-0 win against Pompey for the Dons.
Neal Ardley made two changes to the Wimbledon team that started against Mansfield with Bayo Akinfenwa and Sammy Moore both missing out. Ade Azeez and Frankie Sutherland were both handed recalls for a Dons side aiming to get back to winning ways after a frustrating defeat at home to Mansfield.
Portsmouth came into this game looking for a boost after two defeats in their last three games, but the Dons were in no mood to hand them any Christmas gifts. An early spell of Pompey pressure came to nothing with the Dons defence holding firm, particularly when Jake Goodman made an excellent interception to stop a cross from Jed Wallace finding its target.
Wimbledon established good possession after those opening exchanges and they were rewarded with the opening goal in the ninth minute. It was a goal that came in stunning style through Sutherland. The midfielder latched onto a quickly-taken free-kick from Callum Kennedy and cut inside from the left, before producing a brilliant curler that found the top corner. Though Pompey had offered little as an attacking force in the first 15 minutes, they came so close to a leveller shortly afterwards. Jack Whatmough caused problems in the area from a corner and Ryan Taylor, who scored the winner in last season’s corresponding fixture, fired against a post.
The pattern of this match remained constant as Wimbledon continued to dominate and Neal Ardley’s men were celebrating a second goal in the 17thminute. George Francomb’s free-kick put Tubbs clean through and Wimbledon’s leading scorer needed no second invitation to deliver a clinical finish that left Pompey goalkeeper Paul Jones with no chance. The two-goal lead certainly never flattered Wimbledon and it could have been more before the half hour mark. With the home faithful growing restless, Azeez powered through, but his pass just had too much on it for Sean Rigg, who also drove wide shortly afterwards.
With Tubbs, Azeez and Rigg causing all sorts of problems up front for a Pompey side lacking in confidence, there appeared to be more goals in this for the Dons. Wimbledon’s midfield dominated possession with Sutherland’s impressive demonstration of passing highlighting his growing confidence after the opening goal. Wimbledon did need James Shea to come to the rescue just before half-time though when he reacted superbly at his near post to turn away Taylor’s effort.
The Dons had performed so effectively at both ends in the first-half and a reproduction of such performance levels in the second-half would surely be enough to earn the points. Wimbledon threatened another six minutes after half-time when Tubbs got on the end of a cross from Fuller, but this time his touch was just too heavy and Jones gathered the ball. As the hour approached, home fans attempted to lift their side by really pumping up the atmosphere, but Pompey struggled to respond on the pitch. When they did muster a shot at goal through captain Danny Hollands, Francomb got back well to block.
James Shea yet again showed his goalkeeping qualities when required, most notably when he sped off his line to get there first before Craig Westcarr. Pressure started to build midway through the second-half as the visitors were forced to defend deeper and there was relief among the Wimbledon ranks when Jed Wallace fired wide from close range after a good lay-off from Taylor. However, Portsmouth’s challenge was deflated in the 69thminute when Dan Butler was shown a second yellow card for hacking down Francomb.
Azeez was twice denied a third by fine saves from Jones near the end, but two was enough for Wimbledon to earn a win that sets them up nicely for Exeter at home on Sunday.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, George Francomb, Matt Tubbs (George Oakley), Sean Rigg (Harry Pell), Ade Azeez, Callum Kennedy, Adam Barrett, Frankie Sutherland, Jake Goodman.