AFC Wimbledon earned a first League One victory of the season in thrilling style with substitute Dominic Poleon striking a late winner.
Poleon struck the decisive goal in injury time with a superb effort to earn a 2-1 win and cap a gutsy fightback from Wimbledon.
At 1-0 down, Wimbledon had to show plenty of spirit to deny Chesterfield a second, before showing character in abundance to fight back and win it.
Neal Ardley made two changes to the side that started at Rochdale last Saturday with George Francomb and Tyrone Barnett both recalled in place of Chris Whelpdale and Tom Elliott. It was Francomb’s first start of the season, the wide man making his way back from the knee injury that had sidelined him since April.
As Neil Cox had suggested in the pre-match build-up, Chesterfield attempted to spread the ball around and they had plenty of possession early on. However, Wimbledon had the first half chance when Chesterfield goalkeeper Ryan Fulton’s poor clearance was intercepted by Jake Reeves 35 yards out, but the Dons midfielder was unable to lift his chip over him. A promising move involving Andy Barcham and Lyle Taylor then provided a shooting chance for Barnett, but his effort was charged down.
When Chesterfield did look to their danger-man Gboly Ariyibi on the right to break Wimbledon down, Jon Meades showed plenty of strength and determination to keep him out. Though Ched Evans shot wide and Jon Nolan had an effort deflected wide, Wimbledon had defended well in the first half an hour. At the other end, Wimbledon had been unable to make the most of several corners, Paul Robinson testing Fulton from one of them, but the flag was up for a foul. Barnett also tried his luck with an opportunist effort from 30 yards, but his shot flashed wide.
Chesterfield snatched the lead in the 36th minute when Wimbledon failed to defend a routine corner, the cross swung in and Sam Hird’s header appeared to be diverted in by Darius Charles. In response, Lyle Taylor created space for himself in the box, but his well struck effort was deflected over the crossbar. However, the Dons had been unable to exert sustained pressure in the first-half and it remained 1-0 to Chesterfield when the whistle shrilled for the interval.
The second half started with Chesterfield pressing forward in search of a second and Evans shot just wide of the target. However, Wimbledon produced exactly the response that was required with a spell of pressure that yielded the equaliser. After Barnett so nearly claimed his first Wimbledon goal – he was denied by Fulton after lovely play by Barcham – came the equaliser. Francomb’s superb delivery from a corner evaded everyone but Paul Robinson at the far post and he made no mistake from close range. You could sense the relief around the stadium from the Wimbledon faithful after that equaliser and it was a completely different game now.
At this stage, Wimbledon were now threatening to secure all three points for the first time this season. A lovely move between Meades and Barcham ended with Taylor having a sight of goal, but his shot was deflected wide. However, Wimbledon were very fortunate to survive 20 minutes from time when new Chesterfield signing Conor Wilkinson cracked a shot against the inside of a post and Ariyibi was unable to convert the rebound.
With Wimbledon’s pressure having subsided after the equaliser, Neal Ardley made a treble change with Dominic Poleon, Tom Elliott and Dean Parrett entering the fray for Barcham, Taylor and Francomb. At this stage, there was no sign of either side settling for a point as both sides went all out for the victory. Wimbledon were again relieved to watch Wilkinson drive a rasping drive just wide as the visitors sensed they could win it.
The Dons had a great chance to win it eight minutes from time when Elliott’s perseverance created space for Jake Reeves, but he cracked his shot over the crossbar from just inside the area. Then five minutes from time Wimbledon appeared to have legitimate claims for a penalty when good play from Reeves found Poleon in the area and he went down under a challenge, but the referee only pointed for a corner.
However, Poleon was not to be denied his first Wimbledon league goal and it could not have come at a better time. After latching into a pass from Reeves, Poleon took aim and struck a brilliant low effort in the first minute of injury time that left Fulton with no chance. What a way to win it as the home faithful erupted and just maybe it will lead to more victories with the Dons now unbeaten in three league games.
AFC Wimbledon: Ryan Clarke, Barry Fuller, Paul Robinson, Darius Charles, Jon Meades, George Francomb (Dean Parrett), Jake Reeves, Dannie Bulman, Tyrone Barnett, Lyle Taylor (Tom Elliott), Andy Barcham (Dominic Poleon).