Wimbledon’s unbeaten run came to an end this afternoon as League 2 leaders Shrewsbury proved too strong at Greenhous Meadow.
Following a draw at promotion chasers Burton Albion, a result that made it four matches unbeaten, this assignment proved to be a bridge too far as the Dons suffered a 2-0 defeat.
Wimbledon were forced into an early change when number one James Shea had to go off injured and Joe McDonnell came on for his first-team debut.
Neal Ardley decided to shuffle his pack for a third game in just eight days with four changes made by the Wimbledon manager. As expected, Dave Winfield came in for his debut to face his old club with Mark Phillips suspended. Ade Azeez, David Connolly and George Francomb were all restored to the starting line-up in place of Bayo Akinfenwa, Sammy Moore and Alfie Potter.
Shrewsbury made a start that was to be expected from a side flying high at the top of League 2 and the Dons were forced onto the back foot early on. Ironically, the hosts fashioned their best chance in the first 10 minutes after a promising Dons move. Callum Kennedy put a lovely ball through to find Craig Tanner and his clever flick came close to putting David Connolly through. However, Shrewsbury broke quickly and Scott Vernon fired just over the crossbar as the hosts showed what they were all about.
Though it was hardly backs to the wall for Wimbledon, Shrewsbury’s high tempo approach continued to cause problems and Jordan Clark’s fierce drive was just over. There was a major incident in the 15th minute when Dons goalkeeper James Shea went down after a clash with Shrewsbury striker James Collins. Shea required lengthy treatment and after around eight minutes he was stretchered off with Joe McDonnell coming on for his first-team debut.
It was important for the 20-year-old replacement that he started competently to gain in confidence and that’s what happened when he reacted well to gather a corner when under pressure. That came after Deji Oshilaja made a timely intervention to block a goal-bound effort from Liam Lawrence.
Wimbledon started to find their stride as an attacking force after the half hour mark. Tanner had a decent effort deflected just wide and then David Connolly fired over the crossbar with a first time strike from a George Francomb corner. Tanner then cut inside and unleashed a shot that was too close to Shrewsbury goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler.
However, Shrewsbury made the breakthrough just when Wimbledon looked set to go in level at half-time. Lawrence pounced on a half cleared cross and struck an angled drive that left McDonnell with no chance. That came as a bitter pill to swallow for the Dons during eight minutes of first half injury-time.
The Dons had a mountain to climb three minutes after half-time when they failed to defend from a corner. A dangerous cross was swung in, but Scott Vernon rose unchallenged at the near post to head home emphatically. At this stage, Wimbledon were struggling to contain a rampant Shrewsbury side. James Collins cracked a fierce drive from outside the area against the crossbar and then Tyrone Barnett so nearly converted a cross.
Azeez showed the cutting edge that Wimbledon had so far lacked before the hour mark. First, he sent over a teasing cross that Leutwiler just managed to scramble clear and his header forced a fine save from the Shrewsbury goalkeeper. It was virtually the last contribution from Azeez as Bayo Akinfenwa was introduced with 28 minutes to go.
The Dons struggled to make any impression as an attacking force in the latter stages. Jake Reeves cracked a shot just wide from outside the area and Akinfenwa headed wide. However, Shrewsbury would have earned a greater margin if it had not been for a fine save from McDonnell to deny Collins.
Two was enough for Shrewsbury to coast to a deserved victory and the Dons will need to do better if they are to get back on track against Luton Town next Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea (Joe McDonnell), Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, George Francomb, Ade Azeez (Bayo Akinfenwa), Callum Kennedy, Jake Reeves, Craig Tanner, David Connolly (Sean Rigg), Dave Winfield, Deji Oshilaja.