Wimbledon made the perfect start to 2016 with a stunning victory at Cambridge United today.
The Dons were again at their best on their travels with an emphatic 4-1 victory, thanks to goals from Paul Robinson, Lyle Taylor, Jon Meades and Ade Azeez.
It offered fine reward for the 669 Dons fans in attendance and the Cambridge home faithful were heading for the exits when Azeez slotted home the fourth. It now means the Dons are seven unbeaten away from home.
Neal Ardley made just two changes to his starting line-up after the impressive victory at Exeter City. Bayo Akinfenwa was preferred to Tom Elliott up front and Andy Barcham was recalled to the side in place of Sean Rigg. Cambridge came into this game as the form team in League 2 with five wins out of the last six and they were boosted by the loan signing of West Ham left-back Lewis Page.
Cambridge had shown their prowess from set-pieces in victory at AFC Wimbledon earlier this season and Neal Ardley’s men knew that a strong display at the back was required to emerge triumphant.
Wimbledon made a bright start at the Abbey Stadium and earned reward in the 10th minute. It all came about after in-form Lyle Taylor did so well to chase down a lost cause, the Dons striker securing a corner after just about reaching a long ball from Barry Fuller. George Francomb produced a superb delivery from the corner and Robinson showed determination in abundance to get there first, before powering home an emphatic header. It was Robinson’s first competitive goal for Wimbledon, his only other goal coming in a pre-season friendly against Cheltenham.
It was a very encouraging first 20 minutes for Wimbledon at both ends of the pitch. The Dons restricted Cambridge to very little and at the other end so nearly had the cushion of a second goal. A through ball from Dannie Bulman put Barcham clean through, but he was ruled offside after a clinical finish.
However, Cambridge steadily came into the game and it needed Karleigh Osborne to make a superb last-ditch block to stop a header from Barry Corr finding the back of the net. The equaliser did follow from the subsequent corner though as Lewis Berry’s near post header from a Harrison Dunk corner left James Shea with no chance. At this stage, the home side’s tails were up and Wimbledon were fortunate to survive when a free-kick from Dunk picked out Cambridge captain Mark Roberts, but he headed straight into the grateful arms of James Shea.
Despite having to soak up pressure, Wimbledon still maintained plenty of threat in attack. A lovely ball from Jake Reeves provided Taylor with space in behind, but he took too long to shift the ball onto his right and the chance was gone. Taylor showed his quality minutes later though when he produced lovely skill on the right flank and sent over a dangerous cross that flashed across the face of goal with no one able to get on the end of it.
The first half had been an entertaining affair with both sides attacking in different styles. The hosts unsurprisingly offered a direct approach as they sought to get the ball out wide to Dunk at every opportunity with Corr as the target. Wimbledon’s first half featured plenty of good passing moves with Taylor and Barcham offering threat in attack during an evenly matched 45 minutes.
In a game when both sides threatened from set pieces, Robinson had another good chance five minutes after half-time when he reached a Francomb corner first, but this time he headed wide. Wimbledon started the second half well and threatened a second goal when Barcham provided Taylor with a sight of goal, but his effort was blocked. At the other end, Osborne showed his defensive qualities again to cut out a dangerous ball from Dunk.
Wimbledon earned a lead their second-half play deserved in the 64th minute – and it came in great style too. Dannie Bulman’s fine tackle won the ball back and Barry Fuller produced a powerful run and cross to set-up Taylor, who finished clinically from just inside the area.
There was little sign of Wimbledon sitting on their lead and a well-worked free-kick saw Jake Reeves and Taylor combine well to set-up Barcham, but his effort was too close to Cambridge goalkeeper Sam Beasant. However, the all-important third goal arrived 14 minutes from time from an unlikely source. Taylor pounced on a half cleared corner and delivered a lovely pass for Jon Meades and he struck a superb low finish into the bottom corner. It was job done from Taylor as he claimed a goal and two assists, before being withdrawn for Tom Elliott. The biggest jeers of the day came from the Cambridge faithful as Taylor went off and that is always a sign of a good player. Tom Elliott was the man sent on in his place and Ade Azeez replaced Akinfenwa.
There was even better to come for Wimbledon with four minutes to play when Azeez showed great pace to latch onto a long ball, before rounding Beasant and firing home. It rounded off a great victory for Wimbledon and surely one they can build on during 2016.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Paul Robinson, George Francomb, Jake Reeves, Bayo Akinfenwa (Ade Azeez), Jon Meades, Andy Barcham (Sean Rigg), Karleigh Osborne, Lyle Taylor (Tom Elliott).