AFC Wimbledon slipped to a third successive defeat today after failing to build on an impressive start against Bolton Wanderers.
Following a great start with a brilliant goal from Andy Barcham, Wimbledon suffered a 2-1 loss as the realities of life in English Football League One were highlighted once again.
Despite playing well at times, relegated Championship club Bolton were more ruthless in attack and that was the difference between the two teams in front of a crowd of 4,619.
As part of three changes to his starting line-up, Neal Ardley rotated his forward line with Tom Elliott and Lyle Taylor both recalled in place of Dominic Poleon and Tyrone Barnett. The other change involved a return for Dannie Bulman with Chris Whelpdale missing out due to injury.
The changes meant that Andy Barcham was utilised in a more advanced role supporting the front pair and he was straight into the thick of the action. A fine move in the fifth minute ended with a cross from Sean Kelly that Dean Parrett chested into the path of Barcham, but he shot wide. Making his home debut, Parrett made an all-action start and he created a shooting opportunity for himself with a smart turn, but his fiercely struck shot was palmed away by Bolton keeper Mark Howard.
It was all Wimbledon in the opening stages and the hosts came close again when Elliott headed just wide. However, it was only a temporary reprieve for Bolton as Wimbledon opened the scoring in style in the 16th minute. Tom Elliott, Lyle Taylor and Jake Reeves combined to set-up an opportunity for Barcham just inside the box, but there was still plenty to do. What followed was simply stunning as Barcham curled the ball magnificently into the far corner for Wimbledon’s first home goal in English Football League One.
The barnstorming early attacking play from Wimbledon had been pleasing on the eye, but Neal Ardley’s men were unable to maintain it as Bolton started to control possession. Despite plenty of attacking intent with former Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing getting on the ball, the visitors had still not tested Ryan Clarke in the Wimbledon goal by the half hour mark. However, Bolton restored parity with their first shot on target in the 34th minute. Mark Davies picked out Gary Madine in space in the area and his low shot deceived Clarke, who appeared to see it late.
Since opening the scoring, Wimbledon had struggled to create anything of note going forward. With Jamie Proctor also heading wide with a decent opportunity, half-time perhaps couldn’t come quick enough for Wimbledon. There did follow a decent chance for Wimbledon when Parrett clipped a free-kick through for Elliott, but he failed to make the most of it. A 1-1 half-time score was maybe a reflection of how the first half had panned out with Bolton having fought back well after going behind.
Bolton started the first-half on top and Jamie Proctor charged through the Wimbledon defence, but his shot wide did not match the quality of his approach play. Wimbledon did threaten shortly afterwards when Mark Davies was adjudged to have handled just outside the area and Lyle Taylor hit a fiercely struck free-kick, but Howard did well to hold onto the ball.
The visitors made an attacking change on the hour with Zach Clough entering the fray for Mark Davies and the substitute almost had an immediate chance when he chased a flick-on from Proctor, but Clarke was out quickly to gather. Wimbledon gradually started to gain a good share of possession and there was a half chance for Elliott after a good cross from Dannie Bulman, but his header was straight into the arms of Howard. Taylor also shot wide as the Dons desperately searched to regain the spark that had delivered the first goal.
Neal Ardley made a change midway through the second-half with Tyrone Barnett introduced for his home debut in place of Tom Elliott. However, the Dons fell behind 20 minutes from time when Lewis Buxton sent over a teasing cross from the Bolton right and though Clough missed it, Liam Trotter was in the right place to tap home. With Wimbledon now seeking an equaliser, the manager made another change with Tom Beere sent on for Parrett. Captain Fuller attempted to reignite Wimbledon with a dashing run down the right, before sending over a searching cross, but David Wheater headed it back before Barnett could get there.
With 10 minutes to play, Wimbledon penned Bolton back with the visitors forced into desperate defending. They were perhaps fortunate that Fuller did not go down earlier in the box after he showed great determination to get in behind. Then Barnett failed to get on the end of another cross into the area.
Despite plenty of pressure in the final stages, Wimbledon failed to conjure up an equaliser and the Dons will be aiming to get off the mark for the season at home to Scunthorpe on Tuesday night.
AFC Wimbledon: Ryan Clarke, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Sean Kelly, Dean Parrett (Tom Beere), Dannie Bulman, Jake Reeves, Tom Elliott (Tyrone Barnett), Lyle Taylor, Andy Barcham (Dominic Poleon).