AFC Wimbledon produced another superb away performance to earn a victory at Notts County that was more emphatic than the scoreline suggested.
A 2-0 win far from summed up Wimbledon’s superiority as the Dons dominated from start to finish to earn a fourth successive victory.
Tom Elliott and Andy Barcham struck the all-important goals, but it was a tremendous all-round team performance to make it three away wins on the bounce.
Neal Ardley was forced to tweak his plans before kick-off with Dannie Bulman injured in the warm-up and he was replaced by Callum Kennedy. The only other change involved an immediate return after injury for Jake Reeves, who came in for Bayo Akinfenwa with the starting formation of 4-3-3 against Mansfield ditched.
The Dons made a bright start at Meadow Lane and County goalkeeper Roy Carroll was forced into an early save after Sean Rigg tried his luck from outside the area. However, Wimbledon were fortunate to survive when Blair Adams, who was recalled from his Mansfield loan spell after playing against the Dons last week, headed a cross against a post. That never changed the pattern of this game though as a confident Wimbledon side continued to force the issue with plenty of attacking momentum.
It was the direct approach that paid off for Wimbledon in the 10th minute as Neal Ardley’s men struck with a goal of real quality. Barry Fuller’s long ball was brilliantly controlled by Tom Elliott and he played a one-two with strike partner Lyle Taylor, before letting fly with a fierce effort that arrowed into the roof of the net. It was most definitely a contender for Wimbledon’s goal of the season and the Dons travelling army gave it the celebrations it deserved at Meadow Lane.
Though Wimbledon goalkeeper James Shea had to tip over a free-kick from Jon Stead, the rest of the first-half belonged to the visitors as they completely dominated. Sean Rigg had a shot just deflected wide and then the same player also fired off target a minute later. However, the defining feature of the first-half was superb link-up play by strike partners Elliott and Taylor. Elliott returned the favour for Taylor with a lovely lay-off, but Carroll got down well to save.
As the first-half drew to a close, Wimbledon so nearly extended their advantage once again when Taylor again played in Elliott, but this time his shot from an acute angle was saved by the feet of Carroll. At the other end, Izale McLeod headed over the crossbar, but going in level at half-time would have been harsh on Wimbledon. Elliott was undoubtedly the star man with his pace and strength, the forward’s confidence highlighted by a wonderful run that was just stopped before he could dart into the area. On the stroke of half-time Kennedy also had a free-kick just tipped over by Carroll.
The second-half started with Wimbledon once again attacking County and it should really have been game over before the hour mark. Elliott headed straight into the arms of Carroll after a flick by Reeves, the towering striker not realising how much time he had with his back to goal. Elliott then fashioned an even better chance when he powered down the left and cut-back for Taylor, but he shot wide. With half an hour left, it was a question of whether Wimbledon would pay for their profligacy, the Dons having created so many chances in the game.
As we approached the midway point of the second-half, Wimbledon were starting to get pressed back towards their own goal as County finally started to exert some pressure. McLeod just managed to get behind Robinson for the first time, but he dragged his shot wide from close range. However, the Dons should have sealed all three points with 17 minutes to go when Taylor picked out Barcham, who powered through, but he clipped his shot against the crossbar.
Neal Ardley made three quick substitutions in succession with Bayo Akinfenwa introduced for Elliott, David Fitzpatrick entering the fray for Rigg and Ade Azeez on for Taylor. Elliott, in particular, was given a standing ovation by Dons supporters after arguably his best performance in a Wimbledon shirt.
Wimbledon got the second goal that their performance deserved seven minutes from time when Fitzpatrick put over a fine cross from the right to pick out Barcham and he took one touch, before firing clinically past Carroll. Barcham struck the crossbar and Azeez was denied by Carroll in the final stages, but two was enough for the Dons to go marching on.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Callum Kennedy, Paul Robinson, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott (Bayo Akinfenwa), Sean Rigg (David Fitzpatrick), Jon Meades, Andy Barcham, Karleigh Osborne, Lyle Taylor (Ade Azeez) .