AFC Wimbledon ended a run of three consecutive defeats at Exeter City with another hard-working and fully committed display on Monday afternoon.
First half goals from Tom Elliott (pictured) and Lyle Taylor meant that the Dons signed off 2015 with three points after a 2-0 victory against Paul Tisdale’s side and left them buoyant going into the New Year.
Manager Neal Ardley made two changes to the starting line-up against Bristol Rovers with Sean Rigg and Elliott coming in for Andy Barcham and Bayo Akinfenwa, who both dropped to the bench. With the club successful in their appeal against Paul Robinson’s sending-off on Boxing Day the experienced centre-back was able to resume his partnership with Karleigh Osborne.
Craig Woodman carved out the opening opportunity of the game for Exeter when he ventured into the Dons penalty area and forced a diving save out of James Shea after just two minutes. Three minutes later Jamie Reid increased the early pressure on the Dons goal, but blasted wide.
Elliott opened the scoring though on 16 minutes with Wimbledon’s first real attempt on Bobby Olejnik’s goal. George Francomb provided the cross and Elliott leapt to power a header past the Grecians goalkeeper to give the visitors the lead against the run of play.
Halfway through the first period Tom Nichols forced Shea to tip the ball over from a central free-kick, twenty yards out. Joel Grant saw an opportunity go wide from close range as Exeter attempted to respond.
Elliott earned a free-kick and after 27 minutes another well delivered effort from Francomb forced Exeter to scramble the ball clear. The former Cambridge striker proved a handful for the hosts back line with his aerial ability and physical presence.
Wimbledon doubled their lead on the half hour mark as strike partner Taylor lofted the ball over Olejnik while the Exeter defence paused looking for an offside decision. Taylor’s calmness and composure was key as the Dons moved into a strong position with still a quarter of an hour to go before the break.
With six minutes to go Exeter failed to capitalise on Wimbledon’s attempts inside the box to clear the ball as Nichols endeavours left Shea requiring attention. As Exeter continued to look to find a way back into the game, Elliott forced Olejnik into action again as the Dons looked to put matters out of reach.
Neal Ardley and his side were back out quickly for the start of the second-half as they attempted to wrap up a long awaited victory at St James Park. They continued to assert their dominance for the first five minutes after the restart. Jordan Tillson collected a yellow card for a challenge on Taylor.
Shortly after, Taylor was forced to limp out of the game and with 55 minutes gone Bayo Akinfenwa was called into action from the bench. With frustration creeping into Exeter’s play, the Dons continued to have the upper-hand. Ade Azeez replaced Elliott, who earned a deserved round of applause from the 314 travelling supporters with the last quarter of the match looming.
Woodman went into the referee’s note book for a challenge on Francomb with sixteen minutes remaining. Jon Meades received a yellow with thirteen minutes left, but nothing could blot the copybook of a hard-working, away day performance from Ardley’s side.
Andy Barcham introduced fresh pace into the Dons attack as he replaced Rigg. Substitute Clinton Morrison had Exeter’s best opportunity to claw one back as he saw an effort come off the post with three minutes remaining, but it proved too little too late even with eight minutes of time added on.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Karleigh Osborne, Jon Meades, George Francomb, Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Sean Rigg (Andy Barcham), Tom Elliott (Ade Azeez), Lyle Taylor (Bayo Akinfenwa).