Wimbledon bowed out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tonight with a gallant defeat at the hands of League One Bristol City.
George Francomb struck a brilliant goal to make City sweat after they had taken a 2-0 lead, but the hosts just held on for a 2-1 win after late Wimbledon pressure. It was a defeat that the Dons can certainly take heart from for the rest of their league campaign and the 326 travelling fans who made the trip gave the players a fine ovation for their efforts after the final whistle.
Neal Ardley made four changes to his starting line-up from the side that earned a draw at York City on Saturday. Matt Tubbs came straight back in from the start up front with Bayo Akinfenwa the man to make way. Sammy Moore, Alan Bennett and Jake Nicholson were also handed recalls in place of Frankie Sutherland, Andy Frampton and George Francomb.
Bristol City made a strong start that showed exactly why they currently top League One. Wide man Joe Bryan was at the heart of it and he had the first chance when he cut inside and created space for a shot, but he shot wide. Then the same player put a lovely cross over from the left but Adam Barrett made a fine last-ditch header. Wimbledon had a fair amount of possession in the first half an hour and they came close when Ade Azeez tried his luck from 25 yards, but his fierce effort was just wide.
Though it was hardly backs to the wall for Wimbledon as the hosts struggled to break them down, it needed another impressive headed clearance from Barrett to stop Marlon Pack’s cross from finding a target in the box. City came closer though when Wes Burns was allowed a free header in the box, but he headed over when he should really have done better.
Wimbledon enjoyed plenty of first-half possession with Nicholson at the heart of their best attacks. It was a game that really suited the midfielder’s ability to pick a pass and he put over a lovely cross from the left that Azeez could have scored if he had got any touch on it. However, Wimbledon needed goalkeeper James Shea to add another fine save to his growing collection when he made a fingertip save to deny Aden Flint.
The pressure started to grow from City at the start of the second-half and there was a let-off for Wimbledon when Bryan headed wide at the far post. Then Shea rescued the Dons once again when he came off his line quickly to stop the same player.
Neal Ardley made his first change in the 54thminute with George Francomb replacing Sean Rigg. It did not take long for Francomb to get into the thick of the action when he cut inside and unleashed a great effort that flashed just wide. However, Wimbledon had to be careful not to commit too many men forward with City so dangerous in attack and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas fired a fine effort just over the crossbar.
Bayo Akinfenwa entered the fray for Matt Tubbs as Wimbledon started to entertain thoughts of more than just earning penalties. With 20 minutes left Azeez threatened to made the breakthrough when he got behind City’s defence, but his touch was too heavy and City goalkeeper Frank Fielding got there first.
Just when Wimbledon started to really fancy their chances, City made the breakthrough. Emmanuel-Thomas, who had been lively all night, sent over a cross from the right that Bryan met at the far post and his pull-back was slotted home by Wilbraham. Less than four minutes later City had the cushion of a second goal when Wilbraham’s powerful drive left Shea with no chance.
It looked like City would cruise to victory now, but there was a twist in the tale as Wimbledon got one back in stunning style. Akinfenwa created havoc among the City defence and his nod down fell nicely for Francomb, who struck a brilliant 25-yard effort that left Fielding with absolutely no chance. With six minutes left it was all to play for now and the Dons now had City penned back in their own half. The Dons continued to press for an equaliser in injury time, but Francomb was denied what would have been a brilliant goal when Fielding tipped over his free-kick. However, it was not to be for Wimbledon and they had to settle for a gallant defeat in the end.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Jack Smith, Dannie Bulman (Frankie Sutherland), Alan Bennett, Sammy Moore, Matt Tubbs (Bayo Akinfenwa), Sean Rigg (George Francomb), Ade Azeez, Jake Nicholson, Adam Barrett.