Wimbledon’s six-match unbeaten run came to an end in frustrating fashion as the Dons twice squandered the lead against a side struggling for survival.
It all looked so promising for Wimbledon when David Fitzpatrick gave Wimbledon the lead with a brilliant goal on his full debut, but Yeovil hit back twice and earned a 3-2 victory, thanks to a hat-trick from Jack Compton.
Defeat was a tough pill to swallow with goals conceded carelessly and it came in front of a bumper home crowd of 4,525.
With Wimbledon having played so well in victory at Notts County last Saturday, Neal Ardley decided to make just one enforced change. Sean Rigg missed out due to injury and that meant David Fitzpatrick was handed his first start in the Football League since joining the Dons in 2014. Dannie Bulman missed out due to a hamstring injury, but George Francomb was deemed fit enough to make the bench.
It didn’t take long for Fitzpatrick to make an impact, the winger showing the finishing quality that was demonstrated earlier this season when he struck a hat-trick for the development team against Bournemouth. Jake Reeves started the move with a lovely ball into Taylor, who set-up Fitzpatrick and he fired an unstoppable strike that arrowed into the roof of the net to put Wimbledon 1-0 up in the ninth minute.
Far from paving the way for more Dons joy, it sparked the visitors into action and they were level less than three minutes later. A fine ball through the middle by on-loan Everton midfielder Liam Walsh put Jack Compton clean through and he kept his cool to beat James Shea with a clinical low finish. All of a sudden, Yeovil looked nothing like a side struggling in League 2 as they swarmed forward and there was relief among the Wimbledon ranks when Tom Elliott deflected a cross onto his own crossbar.
Despite a few scares, Wimbledon poured forward at every opportunity. Kennedy was offering good width down the left side with Jon Meades continuing in midfield and he appeared to have a decent shout for a penalty when he was sent sprawling in the box, but the referee was unimpressed. In a free-flowing first-half that was end-to-end stuff, Wimbledon again seized the advantage on the half hour when Elliott cracked home emphatically from just inside the area.
The Dons were pegged back yet again though in the 35th minute as Yeovil levelled with a fortuitous goal. A free-kick on the Wimbledon left close to the touchline was taken by Compton and his speculative effort deceived James Shea and ended up in the top corner. It was similar in style to the goal that Kennedy scored for Wimbledon against Hartlepool earlier this season. From a Wimbledon perspective, the lead had been tossed away twice in careless fashion and after recent solid displays at the back that was perhaps surprising.
Still, the Dons came close to earning a 3-2 lead at half-time after great work from captain Barry Fuller down the right. His perseverance earned a free-kick on the right and a superb cross from Callum Kennedy was headed against a post by Elliott. The entertainment value had been high in the first-half with both sides really going for it, but it was frustrating that Wimbledon had been pegged back twice. Wimbledon players were applauded off though after the half-time whistle shrilled, a sign of appreciation from the fans for another bold attacking display so far.
The second half started with Wimbledon on the front foot and Jon Meades headed just over after joining in the attack again. As we approached the hour mark, the second-half had failed to replicate the fluidity of the first.
Wimbledon had looked the most likely and Taylor fired wide from an acute angle after good work by Andy Barcham. However, the Dons paid the ultimate price for more slack defensive play in the 62nd minute. The ball appeared to be heading out of play when Yeovil substitute Kevin Dawson chased after it, but Kennedy brought him down and the only outcome was a penalty. Compton stepped up and beat Shea from 12 yards to bag a fine hat-trick on the day.
Neal Ardley responded immediately with a triple change. Fitzpatrick, who could be pleased with his full debut, was replaced by Francomb on the right side. Ade Azeez and Bayo Akinfenwa were also introduced up front with Elliott and Taylor departing. Azeez so nearly found the key to the door 17 minutes from time. The pacy striker, who had scored as a substitute against Cambridge and Mansfield, so nearly did it again when he latched onto a pass from Francomb, beat his man, and struck a low effort that Yeovil goalkeeper Artur Krysiak just scrambled wide. Pressure was building now as we entered the last 10 minutes with Yeovil forced to defend deep in numbers.
Azeez appeared to be Wimbledon’s best chance of salvation and another powerful charge forward from him resulted in a lay-off for Francomb just inside the box, but he shot over the crossbar. That was it as far as late chances for Wimbledon and the home side only had themselves to blame when the final whistle shrilled.
AFC Wimbledon: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Karleigh Osborne, Callum Kennedy, Jake Reeves, Jon Meades, Andy Barcham, Tom Elliott (Ade Azeez), Lyle Taylor (Bayo Akinfenwa), David Fitzpatrick (George Francomb).
Picture credit: Stuart Butcher, Pro Sports Images.