AFC Wimbledon’s 10-match unbeaten away run was ended at the Memorial Stadium after a brave second-half fightback had threatened to earn a point.
A fine header from Jon Meades edged the Dons back into it and Neal Ardley’s men had chances to equalise, before Matty Taylor struck to earn a 3-1 win for Rovers.
The Dons finished this match with 10 men as substitute Bayo Akinfenwa was red carded for dissent in the final minute of normal time.
There was certainly plenty of spirit in defeat as the Dons threatened to repeat the brilliant comeback at Newport when a 2-0 half-time deficit was wiped out.
Neal Ardley made two changes to his starting line-up with one of those enforced as George Francomb missed out due to injury and he was replaced by Sean Rigg. Dannie Bulman was also recalled with Andy Barcham having to settle for a place on the bench.
Wimbledon were fortunate not to be behind inside two minutes when Paul Robinson made a hash of a clearance and Matty Taylor put Jermaine Easter through, but Kelle Roos reacted well to produce a fine save. However, the Dons established good early possession on a decent surface at the Memorial Stadium. A clear-cut chance was so nearly created when Lyle Taylor found space down the right, but his cross was just too far for Rigg. Robinson then came so close to reaching a Ryan Sweeney header across the face of goal after a corner was swung in by Jake Reeves.
In an opening spell dominated by Wimbledon, Rovers so nearly landed a sucker-punch after a quick break with Easter having another good chance, but Barry Fuller got back well to block. There was more attacking intent from Wimbledon when Jon Meades picked out Tom Elliott, but his header was saved by Rovers goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall.
Early promise from Wimbledon counted for little in the 29th minute when Rovers snatched the lead. Sweeney did well to clear an initial cross, but the ball was delivered straight back into the danger zone by Lee Brown and Easter’s powerful downward header bounced over the outstretched arms of Roos.
There was a double blow for Wimbledon in the 36th minute with Tom Elliott and Connor Smith both forced off due to injury. And it got worse for the visitors a couple of minutes later. Wimbledon failed to clear a long ball and Ollie Clarke took advantage with a powerful half volley that left Roos with no chance.
That left Wimbledon with a mountain to climb at a ground where they suffered a 3-0 defeat on their last visit in 2013. Lyle Taylor attempted to reduce the deficit with a smart turn and shot, but his curler was just over. Though it had been promising from Wimbledon in spells, there had not been enough conviction in their play and that had to change if Neal Ardley’s men were to get back into it in the second-half.
The second-half opened with Rovers on the front foot again and Wimbledon were perhaps fortunate to survive when Ollie Clarke went through again and he was just denied at the second attempt by Roos. However, with Rovers pushing for an all-important third goal, Wimbledon conjured up a response. It all started when Azeez sent through a lovely ball for Taylor on the break and his fine strike was deflected just wide. Reeves delivered a fine corner from the right and Meades met it with a superb glancing header.
It was game on now as Wimbledon threatened a fightback, the travelling Dons support finding their voices in anticipation of an equaliser. However, it needed Barry Fuller to keep Wimbledon in it as he reacted well to clear a Tom Parkes shot off the line. That was a rare foray forward from the hosts though after Wimbledon scored as the visitors dominated. The Dons poured forward and a pivotal moment came when Rovers goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall denied Rigg superbly, before Reeves had his effort deflected just wide.
A flurry of corners for Wimbledon created all sorts of problems and the Dons came so close to equalising when Robinson met another fine delivery from Reeves with a powerful header, but Mildenhall got down well to make another excellent save. Taylor also shot over the crossbar during an impressive spell for Wimbledon and an equaliser would certainly not have been undeserved.
It was therefore a surprise when Rovers netted the killer third with 13 minutes to play. Chris Lines found space down the right and produced a fine defence-splitting pass for Matty Taylor and his clinical low finish beat Roos. Still, the Dons refused to lie down and it was so nearly 3-2 when Robinson volleyed just wide from another Reeves corner. Meades was also denied once again by Mildenhall, but it was just not to be for Wimbledon on the night in front of 303 travelling Dons. A sending off for Akinfenwa with the forward red carded for dissent compounded the defeat in the 90th minute.
AFC Wimbledon: Kelle Roos, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Paul Robinson, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott (Ade Azeez), Sean Rigg, Jon Meades, Connor Smith (Andy Barcham), Ryan Sweeney, Lyle Taylor (Bayo Akinfenwa).