Wimbledon bowed out of the Capital One Cup at the first hurdle tonight after they failed to build on a promising first-half at Milton Keynes.
Neal Ardley’s men were just 1-0 down at half-time after a positive first-half, but second-half goals from Daniel Powell and Benik Afobe effectively ended it, before a late penalty from Matt Tubbs meant a 3-1 defeat in the end. At times, Wimbledon had plenty of possession and they created one or two very good chances, but they failed to find the back of the net and reward a travelling support of 1,132 supporters.
Neal Ardley made just one enforced change from the side that started against Shrewsbury on Saturday with Mark Phillips coming in for his full debut in place of the ineligible Adam Barrett. As expected, captain Alan Bennett had recovered enough to start with a bandage protecting a head wound that required stitches after the Shrewsbury game.
Wimbledon were forced to defend deep early on, but they got in vital challenges when it was needed with Barry Fuller and Sammy Moore showing what was going to be needed a lot on the night. There was a setback for Wimbledon when Jack Smith was stretchered off, though at least there was a suitable replacement with Callum Kennedy entering the fray.
Wimbledon gradually started to gain a share of possession as the first-half wore on and they came so close to making a breakthrough in the 17thminute. Barry Fuller found Bayo Akinfenwa in space down the right and his fine cross resulted in Matt Tubbs forcing a decent save out of David Martin, who was up quickly to deny Sean Rigg’s follow-up. It turned out to be a vital moment as barely 60 more seconds had elapsed before Milton Keynes took the lead. It was a poor goal to concede from a Wimbledon perspective as they failed to defend a routine corner kick at the near post and Kyle McFadzean got enough on the cross to divert it past James Shea.
Despite the hosts attempting to press home their advantage, Wimbledon held firm and there was plenty of encouraging attacking play for them to build on. Akinfenwa really started to come into the game as the first-half came to a close. First, he sent a glancing header wide after a great ball from Barry Fuller and then Martin was forced to tip over his looping header after good work by Kennedy. Then from the subsequent corner a loose ball fell for Rigg, but he fired across the face of goal. Though Wimbledon went in 1-0 down at the break, they had shown enough threat in the first-half to think that there could be a way back into it.
With Wimbledon having performed encouragingly in the first-half, Neal Ardley decided not to make any half-time changes. However, Wimbledon had a mountain to climb three minutes into the second-half when they conceded a second goal. Wimbledon were exposed on their right side with Barry Fuller left to deal one-on-one with the pacy Daniel Powell and he cut inside before striking a fierce shot into the bottom corner. The visitors then needed James Shea to make a fine point-blank save to deny Green.
With Wimbledon struggling to make an impression as an attacking force, Neal Ardley decided to send on Kevin Sainte-Luce just after the hour for George Francomb. The winger’s runs opened up a bit more space and Wimbledon almost fashioned a decent chance when Akinfenwa, who had been Wimbledon’s most effective player on the night, picked out Tubbs, but he delayed his shot and the chance was gone. Neal Ardley made his final change 18 minutes from time with Chris Arthur offered an opportunity to show what he could do and Rigg withdrawn.
However, it was all over 14 minutes from time when captain Alan Bennett’s slip let in Benik Afobe and he finished clinically.
Wimbledon refused to give up, and an Akinfenwa header was cleared off the line, before Matt Tubbs fired home a penalty after he was brought down himself. Despite that late rally, Neal Ardley will be aiming to pick his players up quickly for a trip to Luton Town this Saturday.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jack Smith (Callum Kennedy), Dannie Bulman, Alan Bennett, George Francomb (Kevin Sainte-Luce), Sammy Moore, Matt Tubbs, Bayo Akinfenwa, Sean Rigg (Chris Arthur), Mark Phillips.