Wimbledon slipped to a second successive home defeat in bizarre circumstances today with Jerome Okimo scoring the winner from his own half.
It all appeared to be going so well for the Dons when Francomb (pictured heading home the opener) struck a superb opener just two days after the club were given the go-ahead to return to Plough Lane, but Stevenage turned the match on its head to win 2-1.
The winner came when Okimo struck a free-kick from his own half that completely deceived Dons goalkeeper Ben Wilson and he could not keep it out despite getting a hand to it.
Following on from Thursday’s fantastic news that AFC Wimbledon’s planning application for a new stadium had been given the green light, Chief Executive Erik Samuelson was presented on the pitch beforehand and he spoke about what it meant for the club to be returning home.
There was a great atmosphere as the game kicked off with fans getting behind their team from the outset and trying to create an extra buzz about the place. The Dons were bidding to return with a bang after two weeks without a game since Leyton Orient, but Neal Ardley was forced into a change with Callum Kennedy replacing Barry Fuller, who was suspended due to five bookings. That meant the Wimbledon manager utilised Jon Meades’ versatility as he switched to right back in Fuller’s absence.
Wimbledon wasted no time putting pressure on Stevenage from the first whistle and a succession of early corners almost yielded reward. Sean Rigg volleyed just wide from one of them and then Jon Meades rose highest in the box to get in a header, but it was deflected wide.
Following a spell when the game was held up due to an injury to Callum Kennedy, Stevenage started to exert pressure of their own for the first time. Ben Wilson just about grasped an effort from Tom Pett at the second attempt as the visitors began to threaten. At the other end, Wimbledon put together a fine move that ended with Bayo Akinfenwa releasing Jon Meades, but his cross failed to pick anyone out. Minutes later Meades did put over a lovely cross that set-up Taylor, but he got his shot all wrong and Stevenage goalkeeper Chris Day made an easy save.
The Dons were fortunate to survive six minutes before half-time when Jamille Matt rounded Ben Wilson, but with the gap narrowing he shot across the face of goal. A spell of Stevenage pressure produced the right response from Wimbledon though and a strong end to the first-half earned the ultimate reward with an opening goal.
The crowd had started to show their frustration when Taylor found himself in space in the area, but yet again the final pass was lacking. However, there was no lack of cutting edge two minutes before the break. Dannie Bulman, facing his old club, sent over a brilliant curling delivery from the left and Francomb met the cross with a bullet header that left Stevenage goalkeeper Chris Day with no chance.
“Football’s Coming Home” reverberated around the Cherry Red Records Stadium at the start of the second-half as Dons fans raised the decibel levels after Thursday’s decision. However, the Dons failed to build on their impressive end to the first-half and that allowed Stevenage to come back into it. There was little Wimbledon could do about a stunning Stevenage equaliser though as Jamille Matt took aim in the 56th minute and curled home a superb strike from an acute angle that found the top corner.
All of a sudden, it was a different game and Stevenage started to pepper Wimbledon’s box with crosses at every opportunity. Following a goalmouth scramble, Wimbledon were briefly down to nine men with Paul Robinson and Karleigh Osborne requiring treatment, but both returned to the fray. The Dons found themselves on the back foot and there was a lack of tempo when they did have the ball, Stevenage barely troubled at the back after half-time.
Though Stevenage were much improved after the break, Wimbledon contributed to their own downfall 15 minutes from time as Stevenage scored with a goal that was a very strange one to concede. A long free-kick from his own half by Jerome Okimo appeared harmless, but Wilson was deceived by the bounce and he could only help it into the net. It was a real choker for Wimbledon at such a late stage and the Dons struggled to come up with a response.
Indeed, Stevenage so nearly killed off Wimbledon with a third when Wilson go across well to keep out a stinging drive from Lee Cox. But two was enough for Stevenage as the Dons were barely able to muster an attack in response.
AFC Wimbledon: Ben Wilson, Callum Kennedy, Paul Robinson, Karleigh Osborne, Jon Meades, Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Sean Rigg (Ade Azeez), George Francomb, Lyle Taylor, Bayo Akinfenwa (Tom Elliott).