Bayo Akinfenwa’s quick-fire opener failed to spark a first league victory in 2015 for Wimbledon as they slipped to defeat against lowly Carlisle.
It all looked so promising when Akinfenwa struck inside a minute, but goals from Sean O’Hanlon, Steven Rigg and David Amoo turned the match on its head as Carlisle earned a 3-1 win. The result was particularly harsh on Wimbledon as they dominated for long spells and on chances created it could have been a different story.
Having been pleased with his side’s efforts in defeat at Stevenage last Saturday, it was no surprise that Neal Ardley decided to keep an unchanged starting line-up. New boys David Connolly and Alfie Potter both made the bench with their attacking talents offering good options among the substitutes.
Taking on a Carlisle side third from bottom heading into this game, Wimbledon made the perfect start in their first home league game of 2015. A lovely ball from the left by Callum Kennedy picked out Bayo Akinfenwa and he steered home for his 11th goal in all competitions this season. A goal after just 59 seconds offered a great platform for the Dons to build on.
George Francomb produced great delivery from the right flank in the opening exchanges and one of his lovely crosses from a corner was so nearly converted at the back post by Ade Azeez. The Dons continued to offer plenty of threat and Jake Reeves – making his first home start since re-signing for Wimbledon – struck a fierce half volley from 30 yards, but Carlisle goalkeeper Mark Gillespie was grateful that it was straight at him.
It had been all Wimbledon in the early exchanges and it was therefore completely against the run of play when Carlisle struck the equaliser in the 16th minute. The equaliser was a poor goal to concede from a Wimbledon perspective as they allowed Sean O’Hanlon to win a header from a corner and James Shea was left with no chance.
The Dons produced a stirring response to that setback and they twice came so close to regaining the lead around the half hour mark. First Francomb sent over a teasing delivery from the right that Akinfenwa met with a clever back header that beat Gillespie, but thudded off the crossbar. Minutes later, it was Barry Fuller who sent over a great cross from the right and this time Akinfenwa was denied by a great fingertip save from Gillespie. Sean Rigg also fired across the face of goal, but no one in a Dons short was there to convert.
Wimbledon had certainly been on top for the majority of the first-half, but Carlisle could have snatched the lead just before the interval. It needed a brilliant save from James Shea to deny a fine effort from Carlisle’s Brad Potts, but it would be harsh on Wimbledon to go in behind at the break.
Despite continuing on the front foot after the break, Wimbledon found it tough to break down their stubborn opponents. They did come close five minutes after half-time when Francomb swung over another excellent cross, but Akinfenwa’s header flashed just wide. However, Carlisle grabbed the lead with their first attack of the second half. Steven Rigg met a Matt Young cross with an emphatic low header that left James Shea with no chance.
Shortly afterwards the Dons were left wondering what Ade Azeez has to do to win a penalty after he powered clear of the Carlisle defence and appeared to be sent sprawling by Troy Archibald-Henville. However, Neal Ardley said afterwards that he had watched the incident back and it was definitely not a penalty.
With Wimbledon labouring in their efforts to equalise, Neal Ardley decided to make a double change. New signings Connolly and Potter were both introduced with Azeez and Sean Rigg the men withdrawn. Connolly was quickly into the thick of the action and he so nearly got on the end of a through ball from Francomb. Potter also provided glimpses of his talent with a couple of lovely runs down the left that offered plenty of promise for his future in a Dons shirt.
Wimbledon piled on pressure as the match entered its final 10 minutes and chances to equalise subsequently followed. Jake Goodman had an effort cleared off the line and Akinfenwa was just unable to convert, before Gillespie reacted brilliantly to save from Barry Fuller after a lovely cross from Callum Kennedy. Carlisle retreated deeper as the match approached its final stages and that made it difficult for Wimbledon to penetrate, but Francomb so nearly unlocked the door when he curled just wide from outside the area.
Akinfenwa so nearly salvaged a point when he headed agonisingly wide after a cross from Connolly and the Dons striker was also denied by a fingertip save from Gillespie. There was still time for academy product Will Nightingale to be introduced for his first-team debut in place of Jake Reeves. However, the match ended on a low note for Wimbledon as Carlisle swept forward on the break and substitute David Amoo sealed victory in injury-time.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Jake Reeves (Will Nightingale), Deji Olishaja, Jake Goodman, Sean Rigg (Alfie Potter), Dannie Bulman, Ade Azeez (David Connolly), Bayo Akinfenwa, George Francomb.