Lyle Taylor showed exactly why Neal Ardley worked so hard to bring him to the club with a superb opener and a man of the match performance today.
Taylor struck his first league goal for the club in style and Rigg sealed it in injury-time to earn a 2-0 win for Wimbledon. The final whistle meant that Wimbledon had made it three wins out of the last four home league matches and just maybe momentum is starting to build for Neal Ardley’s men.
Certainly, a first clean sheet of the season is a big step in the right direction and Barnet’s attack struggled to make any impression during the game.
The Wimbledon manager made just one change from the side that started against Northampton, but it was a significant one as it meant a first League 2 start since 22 August for Lyle Taylor. Taylor was selected to start up front alongside Ade Azeez with Bayo Akinfenwa missing out, though he was deemed fit enough to be on the bench after coming off with a hamstring injury in midweek.
Wimbledon took a grip on possession early on as Barnet seemed content to sit deep and try to hit on the break. It was clear from the outset that a key tactic for Martin Allen’s men was to utilise the pace of John Akinde up front as they attempted to find him at every opportunity with long balls over the top. Paul Robinson was required to make a vital last-ditch interception to stop Akinde going clean through on goal.
However, Wimbledon were celebrating the opener in the seventh minute – and what a goal it was too. Taylor latched onto a through ball from Barry Fuller and turned Michael Nelson, before hammering a superb strike across Barnet goalkeeper Max Crocombe and into the far corner from an acute angle. It was a demonstration of the speed of thought and clinical finishing that had made Taylor’s signing a priority for Neal Ardley during the summer.
There was no let-up from Wimbledon, particularly with Jake Reeves pulling the strings impressively in midfield. It was so close to being 2-0 when Taylor sent over a lovely cross from the right that Azeez was a whisker away from converting at the back post. Azeez also shot into the side netting after a fine run with Wimbledon continuing to dominate as we approached the half hour mark. Azeez was everywhere in the first third of the match, his runs in behind dovetailing well with the intelligent movement of strike partner Taylor.
Wimbledon had a golden opportunity to double the advantage in the 32nd minute when lovely play from Azeez down the left lured Nelson into a challenge and he sent the Dons striker sprawling just inside the area. Referee Gavin Ward had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, but Francomb stepped up and struck a penalty that lacked conviction as Crocombe dived to his left to save.
As the half-time whistle shrilled it had been an impressive first 45 minutes from Wimbledon, but one wondered if the Dons would pay for that penalty miss.
With Barnet continuing to show limited ambition in the second-half, Wimbledon continued to push forward. However, it was nowhere near as easy for the Dons to get Taylor and Azeez running in behind during the second half as Barnet appeared to learn from their first-half mistakes.
There was a shaky spell for Wimbledon around the hour mark as Barnet finally showed some threat. A weak clearance from James Shea landed at the feet of Luke Gambin, but he delayed a good opportunity to shoot in favour of making a pass to Akinde and his cross was cut out at the back post by Paul Robinson.
With 61 minutes on the clock, Neal Ardley decided to make a change with Akinfenwa entering the fray for Taylor, who could be well pleased with his performance on the day. Sean Rigg was also introduced for Francomb minutes later as the Wimbledon manager recognised that his side had to regain forward momentum. For the first time in this match, Barnet were beginning to put sustained possession together and the Dons were forced to defend in numbers for a spell. Fuller, who worked tirelessly up and down the right flank against his former club, showed he would not be found wanting by blocking a shot from Aaron McLean.
The Dons emerged from that sticky spell though and had two decent chances to seal the game. Azeez took down a Fuller cross superbly, but his shot was held at the second attempt by Crocombe. Then Andy Barcham shot just wide after a superb solo run. With 10 minutes left, Neal Ardley was forced into his final change as Jon Meades had to go off injured and that meant a return for Callum Kennedy.
Anxiety started to build around the stadium with Wimbledon having failed to seal victory, but the Dons held firm in defence. There was still time for Wimbledon to strike a second when Barnet goalkeeper Crocombe was caught upfield from a set-piece and Azeez played in Rigg, who tapped home from close range.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Semi Ajayi, Jon Meades (Callum Kennedy), Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Andy Barcham, Ade Azeez, Lyle Taylor (Bayo Akinfenwa), George Francomb (Sean Rigg).